We are interested in structures and molecular mechanisms that govern how genetic information is accessed through transcription and how damaged DNA is detected and repaired. Transcription is carried out by the multi-subunit RNA polymerase (RNAP) and is a highly regulated process. We are particularly interested in transcription initiation which is highly dynamic. We use a special form of bacterial RNAP, which allows us to trap intermediate states during transcription initiation. I will discuss our current understanding of the molecular mechanisms of transcription initiation process including how DNA is opened up and delivered into the active centre for transcription. I will also discuss our progress towards understanding key components involved in DNA damage signalling and repair.