Fellows of the Royal Society

The School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience have the following Fellows of the Royal Society within the School:

Professor Malcolm Brown, MA, PhD(Cantab), FRS

Malcolm Brown is Emeritus Professor of Anatomy and Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Bristol, UK.

Professor Brown was an undergraduate at St John’s College, Cambridge and graduated with a first class degree in Theoretical Physics in 1968. He obtained his PhD in neuroscience at Cambridge in 1974. He was a Research Fellow at Downing College before moving to Bristol on a postdoctoral appointment in 1974. He became successively a Lecturer (1975), Senior Lecturer (1991), Reader (1994) and Professor (1998) in the Department of Anatomy at Bristol.

He was Deputy Head of Department from 1996 to 1998 and Head from 1998 to 2004. During this Headship the Department of Anatomy was awarded the highest ratings by the QAA Subject Review for its science teaching and in the RAE for research excellence, and initiated a successful bid for a Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning, leading to the AIMS (Applied and Integrated Medical Sciences) Centre. He was Research Director of Faculty of Medical and Veterinary Sciences from 2003 to 2010. He is currently an Emeritus Professor in the School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2004.

Professor Brown’s research has centred on uncovering the neural bases of memory, particularly recognition memory. With his collaborators, he is acknowledged as having discovered brain mechanisms underlying the ability to recognise previously encountered items as familiar.

Professor Graham Collingridge, FRS, FMedSci, FSB, FBPhS

Professor Graham Collingridge is a Professor of Neuroscience in Anatomy within the School.

Graham Collingridge is the Ernest B. and Leonard B. Smith Professor and Chair of the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto. He is also a Senior Investigator at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. Professor Collingridge also holds an appointment in the School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience at the University of Bristol, UK.

Professor Collingridge obtained his undergraduate degree in Pharmacology from the University of Bristol, UK in 1977 and a PhD from the School of Pharmacy (now UCL) in London, UK in 1980. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physiology at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) and in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia). In 1983 he was appointed to a lectureship at

the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Bristol. From 1990 until 1994 he was the Departmental Chair in Pharmacology at the University of Birmingham (UK). In 1994 he returned to the University of Bristol as the Professor of Neuroscience in Anatomy. There he served as Departmental Chair of Anatomy (1997-1999) and then as the Director of the MRC Centre for Synaptic Plasticity (1999-2012).

Professor Collingridge has held visiting Professorships at the University of British Columbia and at Seoul National University. He served as Editor-in-Chief of Neuropharmacology from 1993 until 2010. In 1997 he was elected a Founder Fellow of the European DANA Alliance; and in 1998 he was elected a Founder Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK). In 2001 he was elected a Fellow of The Royal Society, and from 2007 until 2009 he served as President of the British Neuroscience Association (BNA). He is currently the reviews editor for Molecular Brain and serves on the scientific advisory board of Hello Bio.

Professor Collingridge’s contributions to the profession have been recognized with several prizes including the Sharpey-Shafer Prize of the Physiological Society, the Gaddam Memorial Prize of the British Pharmacological Society, and the Feldberg Prize. Most recently, Professor Collingridge was a co-recipient of the 2016 Brain Prize, the World’s largest prize for neuroscience for his work on Synaptic Plasticity and Memory.

Professor Collingridge’s research focuses on the mechanisms of synaptic plasticity in health and disease, in particular, understanding synaptic plasticity in molecular terms and how pathological alterations in these processes may lead to major brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Professor David Lodge, FRS, FMedSci, FBPhS

Professor David Lodge is a Visiting Research Fellow in the School.

Educated at the Grammar School in Weston-super-Mare, David graduated B.V.Sc from the University of Bristol in 1963 and continued as House Surgeon and later Lecturer in Veterinary Anaesthesia in the University’s Dept of Veterinary Surgery. In 1974, he completed his PhD studies with Professor Tim Biscoe in the University’s Department of Physiology. He took the overland route with his young family to India and onto the John Curtin Medical School at the Australian National University for a 5 year postdoc with David Curtis FRS.  In 1979, he returned to the Royal Veterinary College in London as Senior Lecturer in Physiology, later Professor of Veterinary Neuroscience and Head of Department of Veterinary Basic Sciences. In 1991, David was recruited to Eli Lilly & Co initially to lead their neuroscience team in the UK and subsequently as Director of Stroke Research at Lilly’s HQ in Indianapolis.  After several successful industry-academia collaborations with Professors Max Headley and Graham Collingridge, FRS. and graduating in 2003 with a D.Sc. from the University, David moved back to Bristol’s, Department of Anatomy in 2006.  He currently works in the University’s Centre for Synaptic Plasticity alongside Graham Collingridge in the School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience.

David has served on several committees including the Physiological Society, on editorial boards including Neuropharmacology and British Journal of Pharmacology, and advised government committees on veterinary endotracheal tubes, on animal legislation and most recently on ‘legal highs’.  David has organized many international meetings and was awarded the Feldberg prize.

David’s main scientific contributions have been in the area of synaptic transmission, helping define the roles of inhibitory and excitatory amino acids. Seminal papers have demonstrated how antagonists can be used to define such receptor subtypes.  David is, however, most well known for his work on ketamine and phencyclidine, two veterinary anaesthetics, which he demonstrated selectively blocked the NMDA subtype of glutamate receptor. He linked this with the psychotomimetic properties of ketamine and phencyclidine and many other hallucinogens.  These findings underpin the glutamate hypothesis of schizophrenia and have led to new glutamate receptor-based therapeutic approaches to schizophrenia and other psychiatric diseases. Some of these David helped develop at Eli Lilly and others are presently being investigated clinically.  

Alongside his general interest in glutamate receptors, David presently has projects on understanding the central actions of some new ‘legal highs’ and on phenotyping a mutant strain of rat missing the mGlu2 subtype of glutamate receptor, a widespread mutation he uncovered a few years ago.

Professor Jeffrey Watkins, FRS, MedSci

Professor Jeffrey Watkins is an Emeritus Professor of Anatomy within the School.

Jeff was born in 1929 in Perth, Australia, and gained a scholarship to Perth Modern School, where he showed a natural aptitude for chemistry.  So much so that Jeff’s parents presented him with a Boy’s Own Chemistry Set. He immediately set about making Glauber’s salt, a well-known laxative, by mixing caustic soda and sulphuric acid. To Jeff’s great alarm, his grandfather ingested a large quantity – no need to say that Jeff’s first compound tested in man was an explosive success!

After first class honours and MSc degrees in Organic Chemistry from the University of Western Australia, and a PhD from Cambridge University. Jeff undertook postdocs on the chemical structure of nucleic acids of sponges and of pigments in aphids!  Jeff, however, realised that the chemistry of the brain was where the biggest challenges lay; challenges he wanted to tackle.

He was invited to a Research Fellowship at the Australian National University with Jack Eccles, a Nobel Laureate. The task was to identify the chemical messengers that transmitted signals between nerve cells in the brain. He chose sodium glutamate, an acidic amino acid, as one of the first compounds to try, and the rest, as they say, is history! But what a history!

Working in 1958 with David Curtis, Jeff showed that glutamate excited most nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This was a breakthrough discovery but also very perplexing. The ubiquitous effect of glutamate, its established role in cell metabolism and similar excitatory effects of non-natural amino acids such as N-methyl-D-aspartate, NMDA, all made it difficult for many to accept glutamate as a neurotransmitter. There was a lot of scepticism among scientists! This resulted in what Jeff describes as the ‘dark ages’ of glutamate research.

For the next 15 years, in Canberra, Babraham and Carshalton, Jeff synthesised large numbers of glutamate analogues and tested theories as to how these amino acids interacted with nerve cell membranes. He proposed a three point interaction model which has stood the test of time – remember this was the time well before the advent of molecular biology.

Then in 1973, he came to Bristol, to the physiology and pharmacology departments, a move engineered by Professors Biscoe, Buller and Mitchell. Now the ‘dark ages’ were expunged and Jeff brought enlightenment. He designed and synthesised molecules that would selectively block the actions of NMDA. Most importantly, Jeff with Dick Evans and others showed that NMDA antagonists blocked the transmission of signals between nerve cells. This was Jeff’s Eureka moment; proof that glutamate was indeed a major excitatory transmitter in the mammalian brain.

Jeff and his group here in Bristol, using compounds they synthesised and tested, went on to classify several subtypes of glutamate receptor. Some are coupled to ion channels and others to intracellular messengers, the so-called metabotropic receptors.

Although Jeff is a quiet and humble man, faced with enquiring students, he was always eager to share with them the excitement of new discoveries, even before they were published in scientific journals!  This enthusiasm for understanding extended well beyond his own laboratory. Jeff was very generous with compounds that had taken long hours of bench and fume cupboard work. Sought by scientists throughout the world, Jeff readily gave out these precious compounds and helped design experiments which resulted in astonishing discoveries.

For example, both development of the early nervous system and learning and memory throughout life are now known to depend on NMDA receptors. Jeff’s NMDA antagonists were needed to establish this.  As a result, memantine, a drug which modulates NMDA receptors, is now in the clinic for memory loss in Alzheimer’s Disease.

Over-activation of the NMDA receptors leads to convulsions and to neurodegeneration, Jeff’s NMDA antagonists were needed to characterise and elucidate these effects. Indeed one of Jeff’s compounds and some close analogues, have been used by pharmaceutical companies for the treatment of brain damage, convulsions and pain. A drug, perampanel, acting at one of the other receptors that Jeff discovered, is now used in the treatment of epilepsy.

Other compounds, developed directly from Jeff’s own, have had successful trials in schizophrenia, stopping the hallucinations of this psychiatric disease and in trials for anxiety and panic disorder.

As a result of Jeff’s work, most pharmaceutical companies have glutamate programmes and his insightful discoveries are now being mined for the benefit of neurological and psychiatric patients. 

The scientific community has recognised Jeff’s achievements with fellowships of the Royal Society, Academy of Medical Sciences, the Pharmacological Society, et cetera and with numerous awards and prizes, including several from the United States. He also co-founded a highly successful company to distribute his chemical tools worldwide for glutamate receptor researchers. His company, Tocris was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade.

From the Australian schoolboy and his chemistry kit to internationally renowned scientist with a mission to understand the chemistry of synaptic transmission in the brain.


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