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Dr Debbie L Shawcross


Dr Debbie ShawcrossDr Debbie Shawcross is a Senior Lecturer and Clinician Scientist based at the Institute of Liver Studies, King’s College London. She qualified at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, now Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine with honours having undertaken an intercalated BSc in Physiology and Clinical Pharmacology part way through. 

She pursued specialist training in gastroenterology and hepatology in London and was awarded a PhD at University College London in 2007 in hepatology under the supervision of Professor Rajiv Jalan. 

Her thesis explored the role of ‘Ammonia, Infection and Inflammation in the Pathogenesis of Hepatic Encephalopathy’ which is devastating condition which induces brain malfunction in both acute and chronic liver failure.

Dr Shawcross joined the specialist register in gastroenterology and hepatology in 2007 and gained additional training in hepatology and liver transplantation as a Senior Clinical Fellow on the King’s Liver Unit prior to being awarded a HEFCE Clinical Senior Lectureship between January 2008 and 2013 at King’s College London alongside working as a Consultant Hepatologist on the King’s Liver Unit with a specialist interest in Hepatic Encephalopathy, Complex Hepatology and Liver Failure. 

In 2008 Dr Shawcross was awarded a Young Investigator of the Year award from the Intensive Care Society to facilitate her work on neutrophil dysfunction in acute and chronic liver failure, and in 2011 gained a Young Investigator Award from the Royal Society to continue on with this work. 

In just 5 years, despite limited funding, Dr Shawcross has established a productive research group which includes a Post Doc, 3 PhD students, MSc Biomedical  students and Academic Foundation Year Doctors whom have developed a programme of work characterising the molecular mechanisms contributing to neutrophil malfunction that culminates in a predisposition to infection in patients with acute and chronic liver failure. Bacterial and fungal infections are frequently a precipitant of hepatic encephalopathy, renal failure and circulatory collapse which have high mortality and are a tremendous resource burden to health services. 

Research studies focus on the role of alcohol, ammonia and endotoxin in inducing neutrophil swelling and priming, and characterise the impairment in chemotaxis, phagocytosis and stimulated oxidative burst. The roles of p38-MAPK and hydrogen sulphide as novel therapeutic targets are being explored in addition to studying the interaction of neutrophils with other key immune cell subsets such as T-regulatory cells. These studies are providing new insights into the pathophysiology of acute and chronic liver failure and provide novel information about the cellular and molecular processes governing innate immune dysfunction. This has led to the award of recent research grants from Wellcome, The Foundation for Liver Research, European Foundation for Alcohol Research, The National Institute of Health, USA and King’s College London. 

In addition to this programme of work, Dr Shawcross has continued to maintain her international reputation as a key opinion leader in hepatic encephalopathy and she has delivered keynote lectures nationally and internationally in addition to acting as a Clinical Advisor to NICE and serving on the Liver Section of the British Society of Gastroenterology. Dr Shawcross has had over 50 original manuscripts and reviews published in addition to writing several book chapters.

Dr Shawcross has always had a specific interest in education and teaching and is the lead for Education and Training in Hepatology within King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre and is the Training Programme Director for Gastroenterology and Hepatology Specialist Training in South Thames. She also leads on undergraduate teaching in the Institute of Liver Studies and is a Firm Head and Medical School Clinical Advisor.

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