Dr Elizabeth Sapey BSc, MBBS, PhD, FRCP

Dr Elizabeth Sapey

Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
Reader in Respiratory Medicine
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

Centre for Translational Inflammation Research
Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
University of Birmingham
Birmingham B12 2GW

Dr Liz Sapey is a Reader within the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing and an Honorary Respiratory Consultant Physician at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.  Her research interests focus on non-communicable inflammatory 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. 

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’s clinical work is based within the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, where she sees both respiratory and general medical patients. Liz is the COPD Research Lead and Research Lead for Acute Medicine within this large NHS Trust.  She has helped develop the first cohort of Acute Medicine academic trainees nationally.

Liz has achieved much of her successes while working part time (with young children).


PhD – University of Birmingham
MBBS – University of London
BSc – University of London


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 works as a Reader.

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.


  • 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

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


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.


  1. Sapey E, Patel P, Greenwood HL, Walton GM, Hazeldine J.,Sadhra C, Parekh D, Dancer RCA, Nightingale P, Lord JM; Thickett DR. Pulmonary Infections in the Elderly Lead to  Impaired Neutrophil Targeting, Improved by Simvastatin. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2017. 196, (10) 1325-1336
  2. Scott,A. Lugg, ST, Aldridge K, Lewis, KE, Bowden A,  Mahida RY, Grudzinska FS, Dosanjh D, Parekh D, Foronjy R, Sapey E, Naidu B, Thickett DR “Pro-inflammatory effects of e-cigarette vapour condensate on human alveolar macrophages”  Thorax 2018 (thoraxjnl-2018-211663)
  3. W Drew, DV Wilson, E Sapey. “Inflammation and neutrophil immunosenescence in health and disease: Targeted treatments to improve clinical outcomes in the elderly”. Experimental gerontology 2018 105, 70-77
  4. JR Hurst, M Bafadhel, CE Bolton, JK Quint, E Sapey, TMA Wilkinson  “COPD exacerbations: transforming outcomes through research” The Lancet Respiratory Medicine 2018 6 (3), 172-174
  5. Sapey E., H. Greenwood, G Walton, E Mann, A Love, N Aaronson, RH Insall, RA Stockley, JM Lord. Phosphoinositide 3 kinase inhibition restores neutrophil accuracy in the elderly: towards targeted treatments for immunesenescence.  Blood. 2014 23(2):239-48.   Impact factor 11.8  Cited 134 times.
  6. NA Duggal, J Upton, AC Phillips, E Sapey, JM Lord “An age‐related numerical and functional deficit in CD19+CD24hiCD38hi B cells is associated with an increase in systemic autoimmunity. Aging cell 2013.  12 (5), 873-881
  7. Sapey E, Stockley JA, Greenwood H, Ahmad A, Bayley D.L. Insall. R.H., Lord, J.M., Stockley, R.A. Structural and behavioural changes of peripheral neutrophils in COPD. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2011, 183: 1176 – 1186  (Impact factor 13.2.  Cited 83 times)
  8. Sapey E. Wood A.M, Ahmad A, Stockley RA. Tumour necrosis factor alpha rs361525 polymorphism is associated with increased local production and downstream inflammation in COPD. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2010. 182. 192 – 199  (Impact factor 13.2.  Cited 48 times)

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