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Mark Hankins is Associate Head of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology (NLO) and Professor of Visual Neuroscience. His research in visual physiology began with his PhD in Biophysics at Imperial College London. Retuning to Imperial College in 1993 with a Wellcome Trust Vision Fellowship, he was appointed to a Lectureship in the Medical School and became a Professor of Visual Neuroscience in 2004. In 2006 he established his research group at the University of Oxford based in the NLO.


  • MRC
  • Wellcome Trust
  • Hoffman-La Roche


Mark Hankins


Professor of Visual Neuroscience

  • Associate Head Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology

Translational Optogenetics, Retinal Biology and Regenerative Medicine

Research Summary

Our research focuses on light dependent signalling in the retina and brain, including visual and non-visual light detection. We are also examining novel opsin photopigments and exploring their applications to optogenetics and translational medicine.


His laboratory showed that for the first time that the human primary visual cone pathway is regulated by the activities of an irradiance detector that utilizes a novel photopigment (Hankins and Lucas, 2002).

His work has shown that in addition to providing an independent light input to the circadian system and other recipient brain areas, novel photopigments play a critical role in the regulation of local retinal physiology. Developing state of the art calcium imaging, his lab provided the first global view of inner retinal photoreception in mammals, through an examination of the rodless/coneless retina (Sekaran et al, 2003,2005). Examining retinal circuitry, he recently explored the targeted ablation of the melanopsin expressing cells, which resulted in the blockade of all non-image forming light responses, showing that the melanopsin ganglion cells are also the exclusive conduits of rod and cone inputs to these retinorecipient areas in the brain (Güler et al, 2008). His laboratory originally pioneered heterologous expression for human-melanopsin and this work provided the vital definitive evidence that melanopsin is indeed a sensory photopigment with an additional photoisomerase function more typical of invertebrate pigments (Melyan et al., 2005). Since then he has developed a collaborative structure/function and mutagenesis study (Cambridge and Manchester) of melanopsin that promises to extend our fundamental knowledge of this novel photopigment. The finding that expression of the melanopsin alone was sufficient to render neurones light responsive, has significant bio-technological implications. Hankins now leads a project developing a novel retinal optical prosthetic, which is a translational development of this basic science. The device is being developed as a generic platform for restoring vision to those blind through retinal degeneration.  Professor Hankins is a visiting Professor of Bioengineering at Imperial College London.

Group Members

 Dr Steven Hughes

      BBSRC senior postdoctoral researcher

 Dr Moritz Lindner

      German Research Foundation Fellow

 Dr Michael Gilhooley

      Wellcome Trust Clinical Research DPhil Student

Recent Group Members 

  • Dr Sam de Silva, Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Training Fellow
  • Dr Doron Hickey, Woolf Fisher Scholar and DPhil Student
  • Jessica Rogers, EPSRC D.Phil. student
  • Josephine Fu, D.Phil. student  

Key publications

Recent publications

More publications