Dr Richard Unwin PhD

Senior Lecturer in Mass Spectrometry/Proteomics

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Senior Lecturer, Division of Cancer Sciences

Deputy Director, Stoller Biomarker Discovery Centre

The aim of our laboratory is to analyse protein  levels and modifications, including targeted analysis of small molecules and protein isoforms, in primary (clinical and pre-clinical) samples to determine key aspects of disease development or drug action, with the intention of using the knowledge gained to identify and develop novel therapeutics. My primary interest in this regard is the study of the pathogenesis of the dementias. However we have active collaborations in aother areas, including in complications of diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Age-related Macular Degeneration, and cancer.

I am also actively involved in engagement activities, am a PE champion for the faculty (profile), and sit on the FMHS PPI/E Coordinating Centre forum.


Richard obtained a BSc. in Biology, and an MSc. (Distinction) in Oncology from Nottingham University before completing his PhD in Leeds, applying proteomics to study renal cell carcinoma and developing methods for identifying tumour markers and antigens.

Moving to Manchester for his post-Doc, he developed methods for the proteomic analysis of leukaemic and normal haematopoietic cell and stem cell (phospho)proteomes, establishing mass spectrometry for large scale relative protein quantification and phosphorylation site mapping. During this time, he developed the MIDAS (MRM-Initiated Detection and Sequencing) workflow for the sensitive detection of post-translational modifications, including phosphorylation, acetylation and proline hydroxylation. This workflow was extended to include relative and 'absolute' quantification of post-translational modification levels between samples, and is useful for the sensitive detection of any peptide, particularly in establishing MRM/SRM-type assays for biomarker validation workflows.

In 2011, he took up the post of Proteomics Lead at Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust as part of the Centre for Advanced Discovery and Experimental Therapeutics (CADET), a joint venture with The University of Manchester. The Centre primarily focussed on the discovery of novel targets for therapeutic intervention, to define key pathways in disease progression, and extend these studies into the development and characterisation of novel therapeutics. As well as standard -omics-type analysis, Richard developed assays for targeted quantification of proteins and small molecules, providing data on pharmacokinaetics on both new and existing medications, and allowing the analysis of novel disease biomarkers in large sample cohorts.

In April 2017, Richard moved back to The University of Manchester to take up a Research Fellowship position in order to pursue his own research into how protein expression levels are altered in diseases, primarily in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease.

In April 2019, he was awarded a Senior Lectureship and became Deputy Diector of the Stoller Biomarker Discovery Centre (link)

Social responsibility

I am actively involved in a wide range of public engagement activities. I am part of a team delivering events to schoolchildren as part of science events, and was been awarded funding for the Royal Society to develop resources for a primary school science week. In these activities, participants are invited to diagnose diabetes by way of a demonstration urine test (dipstick) and blood test (using paper chromatography). We have also developed an A-level study day where students at local colleges visit the University and  learn about diabeteic complication vis a 'Dragons Den'-style pitch for funding, and an activity where we look at  identifying markers of disease processes and how these may be used clinically. To supplement these activities, we have recently developed a series of short animated videos explaining our research. these can be found here.

I am a PE champion for the faculty (profile), and sit on the FMHS PPI/E Coordinating Centre forum.

I also Chair of the governing body of Arlies Community Primary School, Stalybridge.


  • PhD; University of Leeds, UK 2002
  • MSc. Oncology (with distinction); University of Nottingham 1998
  • BSc. (Hons) Biology; University of Nottingham 1997

Education / academic qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Proteomics-based Approaches to the Identification of Novel Antigens and Markers in Renal Cell Carcinoma, University of Leeds (1998 - 2002)
  • Master of Science University of Nottingham (1997 - 1998)
  • Bachelor of Science, Biology, University of Nottingham (1994 - 1997)

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