Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico


St John’s Institute of Dermatology

Our mission is to improve the diagnosis and management of severe skin diseases through a better understanding of the basic pathogenetic mechanisms that cause and sustain these conditions.

Based in the Tower Wing of Guy’s Hospital, our Institute is derived from St John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin that was founded in London in 1868.

We play a leading role in the training of dermatologists both in the UK and around the world. Our MSc in Clinical Dermatology is world-renowned, and we have an active education programme providing specialist dermatology training.

Our research facilities are designed to enable translational human skin research and include cell biology (including cell transfection), immuno-labelling and photomicroscopy, molecular genetic facilities and in vivo sampling techniques (phototesting, skin biopsy and DNA sampling), with appropriate storage techniques.


Our research groups

Skin Tumour Unit

Skin Tumour Unit

The Skin Tumour Unit has a large tissue biobank with clinical outcome data, allowing it to define…


History of St John's Institute

St John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin was founded in London in 1868 by John Laws Milton, supported by voluntary contributions. Its patron was Lord Chesterfield, whose name is still associated with the Chesterfield Gold Medal awarded to outstanding postgraduate diplomates of St John's.

During the early 20th century, the hospital overcame a series of financial crises in several different locations in the Soho area of London, finding itself after World War 2 in elegant out-patient premises in Lisle St, Leicester Square with 50 bedded in-patient facilities in part of the disused Eastern Fever Hospital in Homerton, east London. At this time, St John's consisted of two administratively distinct but closely associated components: the St John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin with its board of governors answerable directly to the Minister of Health and the Institute of Dermatology, financed via the Postgraduate Medical Federation by the University of London.

Following Lord Flowers' report in the early 1980s which advised the Government to amalgamate smaller postgraduate institutes and their associated hospitals, St John's relocated to St Thomas' Hospital in the mid-1980s. Soon after, St John's was formally renamed "St John's Institute of Dermatology" to include both the St John's Hospital and the Institute.

In recognition of its new status as a component Institute of the Postgraduate Medical Federation, the University of London established its first Chair of Dermatology at St John's Institute. In 1961, the first occupant, CD Calnan, was appointed. He established St John's as an internationally recognised centre of clinical excellence and appointed an academic faculty which included JL Turk, who pinpointed the role of lymphocytes of the regional lymph nodes in the development of cutaneous contact sensitisation, and IA Magnus.

Magnus with Rimington defined the inborn error of metabolism erythropoietic protoporphyria and pioneered the development of the world's first prism and diffraction grating monochromators, enabling accurate definition of the action spectrum for a variety of photodermatoses. Calnan also set up the world-renowned University of London Dermatology diploma course. His successor, MW Greaves extended and developed research facilities at St John's, obtaining several major programme grants from the MRC and the Wellcome Trust to build new laboratories at Homerton, including a mass spectrometry unit for research into the molecular pharmacology of inflammation – work which continues at St John's up to the present time.

Upon Greaves' retirement in 1999, the new occupant of the Chair was Jonathan Barker until August 2018 when Professor John McGrath became Head of the Institute. The academic laboratories of St John's Institute of Dermatology moved into state-of-the-art new facilities at Guy's Hospital in April 2007. Research now focuses on four main areas: genetics, photobiology, immuno-dermatology and oncology.