We describe an 'open' design methodology for wide-field fluorescence, confocal and fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM), and how the resulting microscopes are being applied to radiation biology and protein activity studies in cells and human tissue biopsies. The design approach allows easy expansion as it moves away from the use of a monolithic microscope body to small, commercial off-the-shelf and custom made modular components. Details have been made available under an open license for non-commercial use at http://users.ox.ac.uk/~atdgroup. Two radiobiology 'end-stations' have been constructed which enable fast radiation targeting and imaging of biological material opening up completely novel studies, where the consequences of ionising radiation (signaling and protein recruitment) can be studied in situ, at short times following irradiation. One is located at Surrey University, UK, where radiation is a highly focused in beam (e.g. protons, helium or higher mass ions). The second is installed at the Gray Institute linear accelerator facility, Oxford University, which uses sub-microsecond pulses of 6 MeV electrons. FLIM capabilities have enhanced the study of protein-protein interactions in cells and tissues via Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET). Extracting FRET signals from breast cancer tissue is challenging because of endogenous and fixation fluorescence; we are investigating novel techniques to measure this robustly. Information on specific protein interactions from large numbers of patient tumors will reveal prognostic and diagnostic information.