Professor Elizabeth Sapey BSc, MBBS, PhD, FRCP

Elizabeth Sapey

Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
Director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
Director of PIONEER, the Health Data Hub in acute care
Consultant in Respiratory Medicine and General Internal Medicine, Birmingham Acute Care Research Group

Contact details

University of Birmingham Research Laboratories
Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Professor Liz Sapey is the Director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, a multidisciplinary research institute of discovery scientists and clinicians, translating mechanisms which underpin inflammation into new treatments/pathways for inflammatory diseases. She is also an Honorary Acute Medicine and Respiratory Consultant Physician at the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust. 

Liz’s interests span translational science, physiology and testing therapies/new models of care. Her translational science focuses on neutrophil biology, strongly implicated in ageing and tissue damage. Liz has led trials which test the efficacy of new therapies on neutrophil functions and clinical outcomes, focusing drug development on areas most likely to deliver. 

Liz co-leads the Birmingham NIHR Biomedical Research Centre theme of infections in acute care and leads the Midlands Patient Safety Research Collaboration theme of Clinical Decision Tools in acute care. 

Liz is passionate about increasing participation in research. She developed the first national adult/paediatric acute care research group, an academic training programme in acute medicine, and gained the UK's first NIHR funded ACL in acute medicine. 

Liz is the founding Director of PIONEER, the HDR-UK Hub in acute care, integrating data from siloed healthcare providers, building collaborations between academia and industry to transform care provision. Liz co-leads the HDR-UK Driver Programme Medicines in Acute and Chronic Care and is a Regional Deputy Director of HDR-UK Midlands.

Liz is the President of the British Association for Lung Research and Chair of the Science Committee for the Society of Acute Medicine. 


  • BSc in Psychology, University of London.
  • MBBS Medicine and Surgery, University of London.
  • PhD in Neutrophil Biology, University of Birmingham.
  • Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.


Liz gained her first science degree in 1995 from the University of London (1st Class Honours), and went on to qualify as a Physician in 1998 (MBBS Honours with 3 distinctions, 2 merits and 2 prizes) from the Royal London and St Bartholomew’s School of Medicine and Dentistry. She has been involved in active research since 2001, focusing upon the inflammatory basis of chronic disease, with particular emphasis on neutrophilic inflammation, ageing and lung disease. She gained her PhD in 2010 (University of Birmingham), where she is now the Director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing.

Liz’s research interests are based upon her wish to understand why chronic inflammatory diseases effect different people in so many different ways, including the age at which they present, the clinical symptoms people display and the inflammation which cause these diseases to progress. Liz runs a health data, clinical and laboratory based group, incorporating new advancements in lung physiology and careful clinical characterisation of patients with cutting edge laboratory assays and data science. She also works as an Honorary Acute Medicine and Respiratory Consultant, seeing patients in the acute medical unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

Liz has gained a broad level of understanding and experience in the organisation and analysis of Phase II – IV clinical trials and in clinical translational research. This trials experience led to her becoming the Managing Director of the NIHR/Wellcome Clinical Research Facility (Adults) within Birmingham Health Partners (University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and University of Birmingham).

In 2019, Liz founded and remains the Director of PIONEER, a Health Data Research UK Hub in acute care. This successful programme was based on Liz’s recognition that this critically pressured area of health care could only be improved by increasing research delivery, providing supported access to granular health data, and working closely with patients and the public. To date, PIONEER has supported > 90 studies, >£40M in grant funding and enabled evidence-based changes to clinical care pathways.

Liz is passionate about broadening participation in academic research, previously holding a steering group member role of SUSTAIN, an Academy of Medical Science initiative to improve the retention and promotion of women in science and takes part in “meet the researcher” days within local schools in order to promote a career in science, particularly in groups under-represented in the scientific community. Also, she supports the participation of clinicians, allied health care professionals and scientists by providing mentoring and supervision in research training.

In 2022, Liz became the President of the British Association for Lung Research and the Chair of the Research Committee for the Society of Acute Medicine.


  • MBChB 4th Year - Specialty Respiratory Medicine Co-Lead.
  • Mentor for pre-clinical medical students.
  • Regularly supervises BMedSc student projects (3rd Year). To date, these studentships have gained prestigious awards and  publications. Liz has also supported students in presenting their research at international conferences.

Postgraduate supervision

  • Professor Sapey has successfully supervised 12 PhDs, 2 MDs and 3 MRes to completion, including students from discovery scientist and clinical backgrounds. 
  • 2 current PhD studentships are in the write up phase of their thesis. 
  • 6 PhD studentships are on-going.

If you are interested in studying a PhD, MD or MRes with Professor Sapey, please visit her FindAPhD page.


Liz’s research interests are based upon her wish to improve the care we offer to people when they are suddenly unwell, through better care pathways, understanding why inflammatory processes are so heterogeneous in their presentation and course and through embedding patients and their priorities in all our research activities. 

To this end, her on-going research activity includes three interrelated themes:

First, the role of innate immunity in disease pathogenesis, especially its role in tissue damage during ageing, chronic lung disease (COPD) and acute lung infections (primarily pneumonia). Aberrant neutrophil functions have been implicated in the tissue damage and poor bacterial clearance seen in each of these areas. She has focused on how neutrophil behaviour (and cell signalling) in the presence of inflammation alters in health and disease, in particular, how inaccurate migration and reduced phagocytosis leads to increased inflammatory burden and poorer clinical outcomes. Liz has developed assays to study these functions in depth and has designed and led clinical trials to study the impact of interventions on neutrophil functions. This work is currently funded by the MRC and Dunhill Trust as well as from non-commercial pharmaceutical grants.

Second, the need to carefully characterise immune responses to acute challenges, including assessing the role of immunosenescence and frailty. This work includes studying how different infectious challenges influence immune responses. It forms a Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre theme which Liz co-leads (infections in acute care), funded by the NIHR.   

Third, how granular, individually linked health data can be used, at pace and scale, to improve care pathways in acute care. As Director of the HDR-UK Hub PIONEER (funded by UKRI), co-lead for a HDR-UK funded 5 year Driver Programme entitled “Medicines in acute and chronic care,” and lead for the NIHR funded Patient Safety Collaboration theme “Clinical Decision Tools in acute care”, Liz leads a large, collaborative group of data scientists, health data informaticians and clinicians, using health data to design and test new approaches to unplanned health care.

Other activities

  • Director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, a multi-disciplinary, cross speciality institute of > 90 staff, all focused on understanding and harnessing inflammation to improve outcomes for patients.
  • Clinically active, working in the Acute Medical Unit to provide care for medical patients with unplanned, emergency health concerns.
  • President of the British Association for Lung Research.
  • Chair of the Research Committee for the Society of Acute Medicine.
  • Co-Chair of governance and ethics committee, West Midlands NHSE Secure Data Environment.
  • Previous Managing Director of the NIHR/Wellcome CRF (Adults) (2016 – 2021). The NIHR/Wellcome CRF is a purpose-built, dedicated unit where study participants are able to take part in research programmes safely according to robust, ethically approved trial protocols. As Managing Director, Liz oversaw clinical research activity that took place in the CRF and chaired the Scientific Advisory Committee to ensure all adopted studies met the rigorous scientific, ethical and governance criteria that underpins our successful funding.
  • Previous Chair of the British Thoracic Society Scientific and Research Committee, which shapes the scientific content of the annual BTS conference, attended by almost 3000 people.
  • Acute Medicine Academic development at UoB. Liz has started an academic training programme at UoB/UHB in order for current trainees to gain academic experience by working towards a Masters degree. This is the first such initiative in the UK.


Recent publications


Sapey, E, Crowley, LE, Edgar, RG, Griffiths, D, Samanta, S, Crisford, H, Bolton, CE, Hurst, JR & Stockley, RA 2024, 'Cardiovascular disease in Alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency: an observational study assessing the role of neutrophil proteinase activity and the suitability of validated screening tools', Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases, vol. 19, no. 1, 130.

Jasper, A, Faniyi, A, Davis, L, Grudzinska, F, Halston, R, Hazeldine, J, Parekh, D, Sapey, E, Thickett, D & Scott, A 2024, 'E-cigarette vapor renders neutrophils dysfunctional due to filamentous actin accumulation', Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology, vol. 153, no. 1, pp. 320-329.e8.

The ADMISSION Research Collaborative, Lewis, J, Evison, F, Doal, R, Field, J, Gallier, S, Harris, S, le Roux, P, Osman, M, Plummer, C, Sapey, E, Singer, M, Sayer, AA & Witham, MD 2024, 'How far back do we need to look to capture diagnoses in electronic health records? A retrospective observational study of hospital electronic health record data', BMJ open, vol. 14, no. 2, e080678.

Quarton, S, McGee, K, Cumley, N, Behruznia, M, Jeff, C, Belchamber, K, Cox, M, Thickett, D, Scott, A, Parekh, D, McNally, A & Sapey, E 2024, 'Towards personalised anti-microbial and immune approaches to infections in acute care. Can real-time genomic-informed diagnosis of pathogens, and immune-focused therapies improve outcomes for patients? An observational, experimental study protocol', PLoS ONE, vol. 19, no. 3, e0298425.

Smeuninx, B, Elhassan, YS, Sapey, E, Rushton, AB, Morgan, PT, Korzepa, M, Belfield, AE, Philp, A, Brook, MS, Gharahdaghi, N, Wilkinson, D, Smith, K, Atherton, PJ & Breen, L 2023, 'A single bout of prior resistance exercise attenuates muscle atrophy and declines in myofibrillar protein synthesis during bedÔÇÉrest in older men', The Journal of Physiology, pp. 1-19.

Knight, T, Kamwa, V, Atkin, C, Green, C, Ragunathan, J, Lasserson, D & Sapey, E 2023, 'Acute care models for older people living with frailty: a systematic review and taxonomy', BMC Geriatrics, vol. 23, no. 1, 809.

the PHOSP-COVID Study Collaborative Group 2023, 'Characteristics and risk factors for post-COVID-19 breathlessness after hospitalisation for COVID-19', ERJ Open Research, vol. 9, no. 1, 00274-2022.

PHOSP-COVID study collaborative group, Zheng, B, Vivaldi, G, Daines, L, Leavy, OC, Richardson, M, Elneima, O, McAuley, HJC, Shikotra, A, Singapuri, A, Sereno, M, Saunders, RM, Harris, VC, Houchen-Wolloff, L, Greening, NJ, Pfeffer, PE, Hurst, JR, Brown, JS, Shankar-Hari, M, Echevarria, C, De Soyza, A, Harrison, EM, Docherty, AB, Lone, N, Quint, JK, Chalmers, JD, Ho, L-P, Horsley, A, Marks, M, Poinasamy, K, Raman, B, Heaney, LG, Wain, LV, Evans, RA, Brightling, CE, Martineau, A, Sheikh, A & Sapey, E 2023, 'Determinants of recovery from post-COVID-19 dyspnoea: analysis of UK prospective cohorts of hospitalised COVID-19 patients and community-based controls', The Lancet Regional Health - Europe, vol. 29, 100635.

PHOSP-COVID study collaborative group, Jackson, C, Stewart, ID, Plekhanova, T, Cunningham, PS, Hazel, AL, Al-Sheklly, B, Aul, R, Bolton, CE, Chalder, T, Chalmers, JD, Chaudhuri, N, Docherty, AB, Donaldson, G, Edwardson, CL, Elneima, O, Greening, NJ, Hanley, NA, Harris, VC, Harrison, EM, Ho, L-P, Houchen-Wolloff, L, Howard, LS, Jolley, CJ, Jones, MG, Leavy, OC, Lewis, KE, Lone, NI, Marks, M, McAuley, HJC, McNarry, MA, Patel, BV, Piper-Hanley, K, Poinasamy, K, Raman, B, Richardson, M, Rivera-Ortega, P, Rowland-Jones, SL, Rowlands, AV, Saunders, RM, Scott, JT, Sereno, M, Shah, AM, Shikotra, A, Singapuri, A, Stanel, SC, Thorpe, M, Wootton, DG, Yates, T, Gisli Jenkins, R, Singh, SJ, Man, WD-C, Brightling, CE, Wain, LV, Porter, JC, Thompson, AAR, Horsley, A, Molyneaux, PL, Evans, RA, Jones, SE, Rutter, MK, Blaikley, JF & Sapey, E 2023, 'Effects of sleep disturbance on dyspnoea and impaired lung function following hospital admission due to COVID-19 in the UK: a prospective multicentre cohort study', The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, vol. 11, no. 8, pp. 673-684.

Kamwa, V, Jackson, T, Hassan-Smith, Z & Sapey, E 2023, 'Exploring fraity and sarcopenia in older adults admitted to acute medical unit, looking at prevalence, trajectory, and outcomes: A protocol testing the feasibility and acceptability of the TYSON study', PLoS ONE, vol. 18, no. 11, e0293650.

Evison, F, Cooper, R, Gallier, S, Missier, P, Sayer, AA, Sapey, E & Witham, MD 2023, 'Mapping inpatient care pathways for patients with COPD: an observational study using routinely collected electronic hospital record data', ERJ Open Research, vol. 9, no. 5, 00110-2023.

C-MORE/PHOSP-COVID Collaborative Group 2023, 'Multiorgan MRI findings after hospitalisation with COVID-19 in the UK (C-MORE): a prospective, multicentre, observational cohort study', Lancet Respir Med, vol. 11, no. 11, pp. 1003-1019.

Grudzinska, FS, Faniyi, AA, Scott, A, Sapey, E & Thickett, DR 2023, 'Observational cohort study protocol: neutrophil function and energetics in adults with pneumonia and sepsis: Pneumonia Metabolism in Ageing (PUMA)', BMJ Open Respiratory Research, vol. 10, no. 1, e001806.


PHOSP-COVID Collaborative Group, Brightling, CE, Evans, RA, Singapuri, A, Smith, N & Wain, LV 2023, 'Long COVID research: an update from the PHOSP-COVID Scientific Summit', The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, vol. 11, no. 11, pp. e93-e94.

Review article

Aiyegbusi, OL, McMullan, C, Hughes, SE, Turner, GM, Subramanian, A, Hotham, R, Davies, EH, Frost, C, Alder, Y, Agyen, L, Buckland, L, Camaradou, J, Chong, A, Jeyes, F, Kumar, S, Matthews, KL, Moore, P, Ormerod, J, Price, G, Saint-Cricq, M, Stanton, D, Walker, A, Haroon, S, Denniston, AK, Calvert, MJ, Brown, K, Singh Chandan, J, Gkoutos, GV, Jackson, LJ, Lord, JM, Marshall, T, Marwaha, S, Myles, P, Nirantharakumar, K, Rivera, SC, Sapey, E, Simms-Williams, N, Williams, T & Wraith, DC 2023, 'Considerations for patient and public involvement and engagement in health research', Nature Medicine, vol. 29, no. 8, pp. 1922-1929.

View all publications in research portal