Pr Dm Nancy Rothwell BSc, PhD, DSc, FMedSci, FRS

President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor of Physiology

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Stroke and brain haemorrhage (bleeding) are common and devastating disorders, during which the blood supply to the brain is reduced or blocked, causing nerve cells to die, which can result in death or disability. We are trying to understand what causes strokes and what happens in the brain when it is deprived of blood and oxygen, to try and find better treatments and preventions. In particular, we now know that inflammation is important in causing brain damage after a stroke/haemorrhage. We have discovered that an inflammatory molecule called interleukin-1 (IL-1 for short) is made quickly by our own cells after infection and is made in the brain after a stroke or injury. We all have a natural blocker of IL-1 called IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1RA), which stops IL-1 causing inflammation. Our research suggests that a synthetic form of IL-1RA called Kineret, used to treat arthritis, could be a treatment for stroke and related conditions. We are undertaking laboratory research to better understand how IL-1 causes inflammation and brain damage after a stroke/haemorrhage, and the effects of some common risk factors such as obesity and atherosclerosis. We are also testing whether Kineret can be used to treat stroke/haemorrhage patients.


Nancy Rothwell is President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester and Professor of Physiology.

Nancy obtained a first class degree in Physiology in 1976, a PhD in 1978 and a DSc in 1987 from the University of London. Her early research identified mechanisms of energy balance regulation, obesity and cachexia. In 1984 she was awarded a Royal Society Research Fellowship and relocated to Manchester in 1987. Nancy was awarded a Chair in physiology in 1994, then a prestigious Medical Research Council Research Chair from 1998 to 2010. Her current research focuses on the role of inflammation in brain disease and has identified the role of the cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1) in diverse forms of brain injury. Her recent studies have begun to elucidate the mechanisms regulating IL-1 release and its action, and her group has conducted the first early clinical trial of an IL-1 inhibitor in stroke.

Nancy was the founding President of the Society of Biology (now the Royal Society of Biology), and has previously served as President of the British Neuroscience Association, a council member of MRC, BBSRC and Cancer Research UK and as a non-executive director of AstraZeneca. In 2003 she won the prestigious Pfizer Research Prize, in 2004 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and in 2005 was honoured with a DBE.

Nancy became President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester in July 2010, but still maintains an active research group. She is currently Co-Chair of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, President of the British Science Association, a Deputy Lieutenant for Greater Manchester, Chair of Corridor Manchester Board, a member of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Board, the Dementia Research Institute UK Board and the Industrial Strategy Council.

Nancy takes a strong and active interest in public communication of science and regularly gives talks to schools and the public and contributes to television, radio and press, particularly on sensitive issues in science. In 1998 she delivered the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, televised by the BBC.


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