Prof Jonathan Seckl

Professor Jonathan Seckl is currently Senior Vice Principal at the University of Edinburgh.

Jonathan Seckl is an academic endocrinologist (MBBS UCL, PhD London). His main research contribution has been in elucidating the biology and importance of glucocorticoid (stress) hormones during foetal life in ‘programming’ the risk of later disease, notably isolating and proposing the key role of the glucocorticoid ‘barrier’ enzyme 11ß-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 in placenta. He provided an ‘epigenetic’ explanation of how early life events can hardwire the body and brain for life. His group’s work on liquorice in pregnancy impacted on public health policy in Scandinavia.

Seckl and colleagues, Professor Brian Walker and Professor Scott Webster, discovered that a hitherto obscure enzyme, 11ß-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11ß-HSD1), unexpectedly functions to regenerate active glucocorticoids in brain and the periphery, amplifying intracellular action. The group discovered increased expression of 11β-HSD1 in brain with ageing and showed this causes cognitive impairments with age. Analogously, they found increased 11β-HSD1 expression in adipose tissue with obesity and showed this produces metabolic syndrome. Seckl and colleagues proposed that inhibition/deletion of 11β-HSD1 may be of utility in metabolic syndrome and age-related cognitive impairments, a concept they established in preclinical and experimental human studies and now in successful phase II trials.

In Edinburgh, Seckl set up and led the interdisciplinary Molecular Medicine Centre, initiated and led the Centre for the Study of the Ageing Brain, was inaugural Head of the School of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, and Executive Dean as well as Director of Research for the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. He co-led the BioQuarter translational campus development at the new medical school Little France, raising substantial government, charitable and philanthropic funds. He initiated the “data-driven innovation” concept recently supported via Edinburgh’s City Region deal.

Extramurally, Seckl has chaired panels for MRC, Innovate UK and the Wellcome Trust.  He has been elected to the Councils of the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Society for Endocrinology. He was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list in 2019 for services to endocrinology and clinical science.

Prof Scott Webster

Professor Scott Webster is Chair of Medicines at the Centre of Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh. During his career, he has held positions in both biotech and academia. For more than a decade, he has specialised in translational research within academia focusing on discovering and developing small molecules as medicines for the treatment of diverse conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, multiple organ failure, fibrotic disease and Multiple Sclerosis. His research has led to the discovery of a number of potent small molecule modulators of target enzymes and receptors, including UE2343/XanamemTM.

He has worked across therapeutic areas and has expertise spanning protein biochemistry, pharmacology and medicinal chemistry. During his time in academia he has worked collaboratively with a number of pharmaceutical companies including GSK, AstraZeneca and Sanofi. Prof Webster is Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Kynos Therapeutics, which is developing therapies for systemic inflammation and multiple organ failure.

Prof Brian R Walker

Professor Walker’s prolific research over 20 years has concerned the role of glucocorticoids in metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. He published the original description of 11β-HSD1’s role in amplifying glucocorticoid action, identifying this enzyme as a prime therapeutic target. He has extensive experience collaborating with and advising pharmaceutical research and development.

In 2017, Brian was appointed as Pro Vice Chancellor for Research Strategy & Resources at Newcastle University, UK. He continues his research on glucocorticoids with colleagues at University of Edinburgh.

Prof Alan Boyd

Professor Boyd began his 30 year pharmaceutical career with Glaxo Group Research Ltd. He has held senior or management roles in many global pharmaceutical companies, including Director of Clinical and Medical Affairs, Head of Medical Research, and Director of Research and Development. In 2005, Professor Boyd set up Boyd Consultants, to aid and support early-stage life-science companies.

Professor Boyd has qualifications in Biochemistry and Medicine from the University of Birmingham and is an honorary Professor at the University’s College of Medical and Dental Sciences. He is also President of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, Royal College of Physicians, UK.