Professor Elizabeth Sapey BSc, MBBS, PhD, FRCP

Elizabeth Sapey

Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
Director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
Managing Director of NIHR Clinical Research Facility Birmingham (adults CRF)
Consultant in Respiratory Medicine and General Internal Medicine, Birmingham Acute Care Research Group

Contact details

Address
Centre for Translational Inflammation Research
Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

Professor Liz Sapey is the Director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, a multidisciplinary research institute which brings together fundamental scientists and clinicians to translate understanding of the process of inflammation in to new treatments for chronic age-related inflammatory disease and the consequences of major trauma. She is also an Honorary Acute Medicine and Respiratory Consultant Physician at the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust. Her research interests focus on non-communicable inflammatory and infectious diseases associated with ageing, and the impact of inflammation in an ageing host during hospitalization.

Liz’s interests span translational science, physiological testing and moving new or repurposed therapies into early phase clinical trials. Her translational science focuses on neutrophil biology, strongly implicated in ageing and COPD related tissue damage and poor bacterial clearance. She has developed assays to study cellular functions and has designed and led clinical trials to study the efficacy of new therapies on neutrophil functions and clinical outcomes using clinical samples to identify pathways of interest, creating a porous pipeline to focus drug development on areas most likely to deliver.

More recently, Liz's interests have expanded, aiming to increase the evidence base for acute medicine, developing the first national adult/paediatric acute care research group, an academic training programme in acute medicine, and from this Birmingham gained the first NIHR funded ACL in acute medicine.

Being Director of PIONEER, the HDR-UK Hub in Acute Care continues this journey, integrating data from traditionally siloed acute care healthcare providers, building collaborations between academia and industry, with an aim of transforming care provision this area of critical need, and improving outcomes and choices for patients. With the current pandemic, this has come into sharp focus, and Liz is part of a national collaboration to curate routinely collected health data from patients admitted to hospital during this challenging time.

Liz is passionate about increasing participation in research, both by health care professionals and patients, so that scientific advancements/ changes in clinical practice reflect our diverse population. Liz is the Managing Director of the NIHR Clinical Research Facility in Birmingham, a state-of-the-art clinical research facility that supports over 15,000 patient research visits each year.

Liz has achieved much of her successes while working part time.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Liz and her team have been reviewing published literature around coronavirus research and translating it into comprehensible PDF guides on a weekly basis. Shared on social media, the research updates are on a variety of topics including masks, paediatrics and co-morbidities.

Through the HDR-UK PIONEER centre, Liz led ‘DECOVID’, which used detailed, frequently updated health data to analyse the most pressing clinical questions to support the COVID-19 emergency response and to improve the quality of patient care for the future.

ORCID ID: 0000-0003-3454-5482 

Qualifications

  • FRCP
  • PhD, University of Birmingham
  • MBBS, University of London
  • BSc, University of London

Biography

Liz gained her first science degree in 1995 from the University of London (BSc Medical Science, 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 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 clinical and laboratory based group, incorporating new advancements in lung physiology and careful clinical characterisation of patients with cutting edge laboratory assays. She also works as an Honorary Respiratory Consultant, seeing patients with acute and chronic lung disease in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

Liz has gained a broad level of understanding of and experience in the organisation and analysis of Phase II – IV clinical trials and in clinical translational research. This trials experience led to her become 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).

Liz is passionate about broadening participation in academic research, is a steering group member of SUSTAIN, an Academy of Medical Science initiative to improve the retention and promotion of women in science, 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.

Teaching

  • MBChB 4th Year - Specialty Respiratory Medicine Lead
  • MBChB 2nd Year - Immunity, Infection and Haematology
  • GEC Supply and Demand Respiratory Lead
  • Mentor for pre-clinical medical students
  • BSc Medical Sciences students “Introduction to Research and Experimental Skills” module
  • Regularly supervise BMedSc student projects (3rd Year). To date, these studentships have been gained 3 prestigious awards and Liz has supported students in presenting their research at international conferences

Postgraduate supervision

  • Liz has successfully supervised 8 PhDs (2 x scientist, 4 x clinician scientists) and 2 MRes to completion
  • 1 PhD is in the write up phase of their theses
  • 6 PhD studentships are on-going

Research

Liz’s research interests are based upon her wish to understand why chronic inflammatory diseases are so heterogeneous in their presentation and course. 

To this end, her on-going research activity includes two 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 lead 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 BLF as well as from non-commercial pharmaceutical grants.

Second, the need carefully to characterise clinical and inflammatory phenotypes in frailty ageing, and chronic disease to better inform therapeutic targeting. This work includes studying how disease manifests in its most early stages, assessing physiological techniques that better diagnose both disease and decline, understanding the shared risk from other chronic inflammatory co-morbidities and utilising outcome measures that reflect pathology. This work is currently funded by the Alpha 1 Foundation and NIHR.

Other activities

Managing Director of the NIHR/Wellcome CRF (Adults). 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 oversees clinical research activity that takes place in the CRF and chairs the Scientific Advisory Committee to ensure all adopted studies meet the rigorous scientific, ethical and governance criteria that underpins our successful funding.

British Lung Foundation Scientific Committee. Liz is a member of the British Lung Foundation (BLF) Scientific Advisory Board and the BLF COPD Steering committee, with a specific remit to help shape funding calls for awards.

British Thoracic Society. Liz is the 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.

SUSTAIN Steering committee. SUSTAIN is a new initiative that works with women researchers to enable them to thrive in their independent research careers and aims to improve the retention of women in academic research. SUSTAIN provides an innovative programme of training and support to develop participants’ leadership and career potential and is funded by the Academy of Medical Science, MRC, Royal Society and Royal College of Physicians. Liz is a member of the SUSTAIN steering committee and contributes to its content and design.

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.

Less Than Full Time Specialty Lead Respiratory West Midlands Deanery. Liz advises, coordinates and approves less than full time training programmes for Respiratory trainees in accordance with national guidelines.

Publications

Recent publications

Article

McCulloch, A, Sarwar, A, Bate, T, Thompson, D, McDowell, P, Sharif, Q, Sapey, E & Seccombe, A 2021, 'Electronic-prescribing tools improve N-acetylcysteine prescription accuracy and timeliness for patients who present following a paracetamol overdose: A digital innovation quality-improvement project', Digital Health , vol. 6, pp. 1-4. https://doi.org/10.1177/2055207620965046

Gallier, S, Price, G, Pandya, H, McCarmack, G, James, C, Ruane, B, Forty, L, Crosby, BL, Atkin, C, Evans, R, Dunn, KW, Marston, E, Crawford, C, Levermore, M, Modhwadia, S, Attwood, J, Perks, S, Doal, R, Gkoutos, G, Dormer, R, Rosser, A, Fanning, H & Sapey, E 2021, 'Infrastructure and operating processes of PIONEER, the HDR-UK Data Hub in Acute Care and the workings of the Data Trust Committee: a protocol paper', BMJ health & care informatics, vol. 28, no. 1, e100294. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjhci-2020-100294

PIONEER Data Hub 2021, 'Perceptions of anonymised data use and awareness of the NHS data opt-out amongst patients, carers and healthcare staff', Research Involvement and Engagement, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 40. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40900-021-00281-2

Haroon, S, Subramanian, A, Cooper, J, Anand, A, Gokhale, K, Byrne, N, Dhalla , S, Acosta-Mena , D, Taverner, T, Okoth, K, Wang, J, Chandan, J, Sainsbury, C, Zemedikun, D, Thomas, GN, Parekh, D, Marshall, T, Sapey, E, Adderley, N & Nirantharakumar, K 2021, 'Renin-angiotensin system inhibitors and susceptibility to COVID-19 in patients with hypertension: a propensity score-matched cohort study in primary care', BMC Infectious Diseases, vol. 21, no. 1, 262. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12879-021-05951-w

TLC Study Group 2021, 'Symptoms, complications and management of long COVID: a review', Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1177/01410768211032850

Smeuninx, B, Elhassan, YS, Manolopoulos, KN, Sapey, E, Rushton, AB, Edwards, SJ, Morgan, PT, Philp, A, Brook, MS, Gharahdaghi, N, Smith, K, Atherton, PJ & Breen, L 2021, 'The effect of short-term exercise prehabilitation on skeletal muscle protein synthesis and atrophy during bed rest in older men', Journal of cachexia, sarcopenia and muscle, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 52-69. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcsm.12661

Alobaidi, N, Almeshari, M, Stockley, J, Sapey, E & Edgar, R 2020, 'A systematic review of the use of physiological tests assessing the acute response to treatment during exacerbations of COPD (with a focus on small airway function)', COPD: Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Riley, B, Packer, M, Gallier, S, Sapey, E & Atkin, C 2020, 'Acute, non-COVID related medical admissions during the first wave of COVID-19: A retrospective comparison of changing patterns of disease', Acute Medicine, vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 176-182.

Atkin, C, Sapey, E & Richter, A 2020, 'Change in blood test results prior to diagnosis in multiple myeloma', Clinical Medicine, Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of London, vol. 20, pp. S99-S100. https://doi.org/10.7861/CLINMED.20-2-S99

Lloyd , E, Ignatowicz, A, Sapey, E, Lasserson, D & Seccombe, A 2020, 'Described practices for assessing fluid resuscitation in acute hospital care: a qualitative study', Acute Medicine, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 205-264. <https://acutemedjournal.co.uk/journal/volume-18/volume-18-issue-4-pages-205-264-2019/described-practices-for-assessing-fluid-resuscitation-in-acute-hospital-care-a-qualitative-study/>

Sapey, E, Gallier, S, Mainey, C, Nightingale, P, Mcnulty, D, Crothers, H, Evison, F, Reeves, K, Pagano, D, Denniston, A, Nirantharakumar, K, Diggle, PJ & Ball, S 2020, 'Ethnicity and risk of death in patients hospitalised for COVID-19 infection in the UK: an observational cohort study in an urban catchment area', BMJ Open Respiratory Research, vol. 7, no. 1, e000644. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjresp-2020-000644

Letter

Jasper, AE, Sapey, E, Thickett, D & Scott, A 2020, 'Comment on “E-cigarette use increases susceptibility to bacterial infection by impairment of human neutrophil chemotaxis, phagocytosis, and NET formation”', American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology, vol. 318, no. 3, pp. C704-C705. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpcell.00554.2019

Review article

Jasper, A, Sapey, E, Thickett, D & Scott, A 2021, 'Understanding potential mechanisms of harm: the drivers of electronic cigarette-induced changes in alveolar macrophages, neutrophils and lung epithelial cells', American journal of physiology. Lung cellular and molecular physiology. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajplung.00081.2021

Alobaidi, N, Stockley, J, Stockley, R & Sapey, E 2020, 'An overview of exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Can tests of small airways' function guide diagnosis and management?', Annals of Thoracic Medicine, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 54-63. https://doi.org/10.4103/atm.ATM_323_19

Coleman, JJ, Manavi, K, Marson, EJ, Botkai, AH & Sapey, E 2020, 'COVID-19: to be or not to be; that is the diagnostic question', Postgraduate medical journal, vol. 96, no. 1137, pp. 392-398. https://doi.org/10.1136/postgradmedj-2020-137979

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