Dr Elizabeth Sapey BSc, MBBS, PhD, FRCP

Dr Elizabeth Sapey

Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
Senior Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine
Honorary Respiratory Consultant

Contact details

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

Dr Sapey is a Senior Lecturer within the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing and an Honorary Respiratory Consultant Physician at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. Her research group studies chronic inflammation and in particular neutrophilic inflammation seen with ageing and in chronic lung disease such as COPD and Alpha 1 Anti trypsin Deficiency. She oversees the Chronic Disease Resource Centre COPD Cohort, which is a deeply phenotyped group of patients with COPD seen within the Centre for Translational Inflammation Research. Liz’s clinical work is based within the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, 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.  

Liz is the Managing Director of the NIHR/ Wellcome Clinical Research Facility (Adults), which supports a wide range of experimental research studies across Birmingham Health Partners (The University of Birmingham, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and Birmingham Children’s Hospital).

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


  • FRCP
  • 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 Senior Lecturer. 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

  • Liz has successfully supervised 4 PhDs (1 x scientist, 3 x clinician scientists) and 2 MRes (1 x physician, 1 x nurse) to completion
  • 1 MD, 1 PhD and 1 MRes students are in the write up phase of their theses
  • 1 MRes, 3 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 a member of the British Thoracic Society Scientific and Research Committee, which shapes the scientific content of the annual BTS conference.

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.


Sapey E (2015) Work life balance in academic medicine. The Lancet 385(1):S6-7

Sapey E, Greenwood H, Walton G, Mann E, Love A, Aaronson N, Insall RH, Stockley RA and Lord JM (2014) Phosphoinositide 3 kinase inhibition restores neutrophil accuracy in the elderly: towards targeted treatments for immunesenescenceBlood 123(2):239-48

Hazeldine J, Harris P, Chapple IL, Grant M, Greenwood H, Livesey A, Sapey E and Lord JM (2014) Impaired neutrophil extracellular trap (NET) formation: a novel defect in the innate immune system of aged individuals. Ageing Cell 13(4):690-8

Sapey E and Stockley RA (2014) Red, Amber, Green:  The role of the lungs in de-priming active systemic neutrophilsThorax 69(7):606–8

Patel JM, Thickett DR, Gao F and Sapey E (2013) Statins for Sepsis: Distinguishing Signal from the Noise When Designing Clinical Trials. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 188(7):874

Stone H, McNab GL, Wood AM, Stockley RA and Sapey E (2012) The variability of pulmonary inflammation in A1ATDEur Respir J 40(3):561-9

Sapey E, Stockley JA, Greenwood H, Ahmad A, Bayley DL, Lord JM, Insall RH and Stockley RA (2011) Structural and behavioural changes of peripheral neutrophils in COPD. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 183(9):1176–86

Sapey E, Wood AM, Ahmad A and Stockley RA (2010) Tumour necrosis factor alpha rs361525 polymorphism is associated with increased local production and downstream inflammation in COPDAm J Respir Crit Care Med 182(2):192–9

8 publications chosen from a total of 32