Bioimaging at The Pirbright Institute

The Pirbright Institute is a national virus research facility specifically designed for the study and diagnosis of veterinary and zoonotic pathogens which are exotic to the UK. We have a vibrant Bioimaging department housing state-of-the-art confocal, superresolution and electron microscopes located within a high containment envelope. Together with the expert staff these instruments provide a cutting edge facility available to internal and external researchers.



Imaging Platforms

Keywords - Light Microscopy: Confocal microscopy | Superresolution microscopy | Laser microdissection | Live cell imaging | Gated-STED
Keywords - Electron Microscopy: Transmission EM | Electron tomography | Cryo-TEM | Cryo-ET

The bespoke Bioimaging Suite in the new BBSRC National Virology Centre: Plowright Building at Pirbright contains both light and electron microscopes, along with an array of specimen preparation equipment. Instruments include Leica SP5, Leica SP8 and Leica SP8 gSTED confocal laser scanning microscopes, FEI Tecnai 12 and JEOL 2100F transmission electron microscopes (TEM) with cryo and electron tomography capabilities. Correct specimen preparation is crucial for collecting and interpreting data accurately and we are comprehensively equipped with a high pressure freezer, freeze substitution units, plunge freezer, room temperature and cryo-ultramicrotomes, vibrating microtome, cryostat and a laser microdissection microscope for general and specialist specimen preparation. Bioimaging supports several image analysis and reconstruction software packages including IMARIS, Amira, IMOD and Huygens.


Keywords – Biological: Biological: Cell Biology | Immunobiology | Microbiology

We are predominantly a virology research institute, however we are experienced in imaging some bacteria and parasites too. Our historical expertise relates to veterinary virology applications such as investigations of e.g. foot-and-mouth disease virus, rinderpest virus, bluetongue virus and African swine fever virus in mammalian cells and in the case of arboviruses, insect and tick cells. In recent years we have designed and built CL3 laboratories for the study of zoonotic pathogens. The Bioimaging staff have experience working with many different viruses using many different microscopy techniques.

Sample Preparation

Keywords – Biological: Resin embedding | Ultrathin sectioning | Serial sectioning | Tokuyasu embedding | Cryosectioning | Immunolabelling | Plunge Freezing | High Pressure Freezing | Freeze substitution | Negative stain | PLT | Immunofluorescence | Cryostat sectioning | Vibrating microtome | Live Cell

The Bioimaging Suite at Pirbright houses a comprehensive range of preparation equipment for the study of biological tissues. For light microscopy this includes a cryostat, vibrating microtome and laser microdissection microscope for tissue sections, and for electron microscopy chemical fixation for routine applications and cryo techniques for advanced electron microscopy.

Data Analysis

Keywords - Software: ImageJ | FIJI | Imaris | Amira | IMOD | Huygens

We have several image analysis packages available for researchers to use in the Bioimaging Suite.


The Pirbright Institute receives strategic funding from BBSRC. Details of funding needed to access the Bioimaging Suite can be discussed with the Head of Bioimaging.

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Point of Contact

Bioimaging at The Pirbright Institute
The Pirbright Institute
Ash Road
Surrey, GU24 0NF, United Kingdom

Pippa Hawes, +44 (0) 1483 231026

Staff List

Pippa Hawes
Jennifer Simpson