Dr Debbie Cunningham PhD, FHEA

Dr Debbie Cunningham

School of Biosciences
Associate Professor
Deputy Director of Education for the College of Life and Environmental Sciences (Quality Assurance and Enhancement)

Contact details

507B, School of Biosciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Debbie is Deputy Director of Education for the College of Life and Environmental Sciences and a teaching-focused lecturer and Senior Tutor in the School of Biosciences. Within these roles she has interests in influencing and supporting strategies which enhance academic standards and student experience.

Debbie has research expertise in the use of biochemical techniques to characterise regulatory cell signalling events in mammalian cells. This expertise influences her teaching focus within the fields of cell biology and biochemistry.


Post-graduate Certificate in Academic Practice, University of Birmingham

PhD Biochemistry, University College London

BSc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences (with placement), University of Wolverhampton


Debbie is Deputy Director of Education for the College of Life and Environmental Sciences with responsibility for assuring the quality of the College’s academic provision. She is also Senior Tutor in Biosciences overseeing the tutorial system and acting as the interface between wellbeing and teaching and learning.

Debbie began her scientific career in the pharmaceutical industry, investigating the pharmacokinetics of novel compounds. She was then awarded a CASE award from the MRC to carry out a collaborative PhD at the National Institute of Medical Research, Mill Hill and GlaxoSmithKline during which she used biophysical techniques to investigate the enzymatic properties of a Rho GTPase-activating protein. Debbie remained at GlaxoSmithKline to carry out her first post-doctoral research position, developing assays to identify inhibitors of protein-protein interactions.

In 2002 Debbie moved to the University of Birmingham when she began work as a post-doctoral scientist investigating Fibroblast Growth Factor signalling in cancer and is currently a teaching-focused lecturer within the Structural and Molecular Cell Biology theme in the School of Biosciences.


Cell and Developmental Biology (2nd year undergraduate)

Cancer Biology (3rd/4th year undergraduate) 

Omics for Biomedical research (3rd/4th year undergraduate) – module lead

Research Development and Funding (MSci)


In response to extra- and intra- cellular signals, post-translational modifications (PTMs) on proteins can be altered to modulate protein activity, stability, spatial localisation and interaction with other molecules. Phosphorylation is a key PTM involved in the transduction of cell signalling events, and aberrant phosphorylation is linked to human disease. A major focus of Debbie’s research has been to obtain a ‘systems-wide’ understanding of phosphorylation events in signalling networks controlled by fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) and platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR), two proteins which are often overexpressed in cancer. Mass spectrometry based quantitative proteomic techniques have been used to identify phosphorylation events and protein-protein interactions providing insight into regulation of key signalling networks that are switched on during cancer. The findings have implications for the application of current therapies and the development of new therapies. 

Other activities

School governor (20-current)

External member of the Programme Approval and Review panel for Open University (23)

Designated Quality Body Assessor for the QAA (22-23) 

Editor for Nature Scientific Reports (18-21) 

Committee member for the East Midlands Proteomics Workshop (EMPW) (15-20)


A complete publication list is available on Google Scholar: http://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=igC5IXQAAAAJ&hl=en

Most recent publications

Marin-Rubio, J.L., Vela-Martin, L., Gudgeon, J., Pérez-Gómez, E., Sidgwick, F.R., Trost, M., Cunningham, D.L., Santos, J., Fernández-Piqueras, J., and Villa-Morales, M. (2022) A dual role for FADD in human T-cell lymphoblastic neoplasms International Journal of Molecular Sciences 23(23), 15157

Adoni, K.R., Cunningham, D.L., Heath, J.K., and Leney, A.C. (2022) FAIMS enhances the detection of PTM crosstalk sites Journal of Proteome Research 21(4), 930-939

Papadopoulos P., Chalmantzi V., Mikhaylichenko O., Hyvönen M., Stellas D., Kanhere A., Heath J.K., Cunningham D.L., Fotsis T., and Murphy C. (2021) Combined transcriptomic and phosphoproteomic analysis of BMP4 signaling in human embryonic stem cells Stem Cell Research 50, 102133

Cunningham, D.L., Sarhan, A.R., Creese, A.J., Larkins, K.P.B., Zhao, H., Ferguson, H.R., Brookes, K., Marusiak, A.A., Cooper, H.J., and Heath, J.K. (2020) Differential responses to kinase inhibition in FGFR2-addicted triple negative breast cancer cells: a quantitative phosphoproteomics study. Scientific Reports 10, 7950

Gilbert, A.S., Seoane, P.I., Sephton-Clark, P., Bojarczuk, A., Hotham, R., Giurisato, E., Sarhan, A.R., Hillen, A., Vande Velde, G., Gray, N.S. Alessi, D.R., Cunningham, D.L., Tournier, C., Johnston, S.A., and May, R.C. (2017) Vomocytosis of live pathogens from macrophages is regulated by the atypical MAP kinase ERK5 Science Advances (3) 8, e1700898

Sarhan, A.R., Szyroka, J., Begum, S., Tomlinson, M.G., Hotchin, N.A., Heath, J.K., and Cunningham, D.L. (2017) Quantitative Phosphoproteomics Reveals a Role for Collapsin Response Mediator Protein 2 in PDGF-Induced Cell Migration Scientific Reports 7, 3970 doi:10.1038/s41598-017-04015-x

Sarhan, A.R., Patel, T.R., Cowell, A.R., Tomlinson, M.G., Hellberg, C., Heath, J.K., *Cunningham, D.L., and *Hotchin, N.A. (2016) LAR Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase Regulates Focal Adhesions via CDK1J Cell Sci 129(15), 2962-2971 (* joint senior authors)

Sarhan, A.R., Patel, T.R., Creese, A.J., Tomlinson, M.G., Hellberg, C., Heath, J.K., Hotchin, N.A., Cunningham, D.L. (2016) Regulation of Platelet Derived Growth Factor Signalling by LAR Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase: A Quantitative Phosphoproteomics Study Mol Cell Proteomics 15(6), 1823-1836

Zhao, H., Cunningham, D.L., Creese, A.J., Heath, J.K., and Cooper, H.J. (2015) FAIMS and phosphoproteomics of fibroblast growth factor signalling: Enhanced identification of multiply-phosphorylated peptides J Proteome Res 14, 5077-5087

Schoenherr, C., Serrels, B., Proby, C., Cunningham, D.L., Findlay, J.E., Baillie, G.S., Heath, J.K., and Frame, M.C. (2014) Eps8 controlS Src- and FAK-dependent phenotypes in squamous carcinoma cells. J Cell Sci 127, 5303-5316

View all publications in research portal