Personal profile


  • Professor of Cell And Gene Therapy, University of Manchester
  • Head of Business Engagement, School of Biological Sciences
  • Chairman, European Study Group on Lysosomal Diseases


Dr Bigger was awarded a Bachelors degree from the University of Bath in Applied Biology. His PhD was conducted in the Gene Therapy Research Group, Imperial College, London, where he worked with Professor Charles Coutelle on developing a gene delivery vehicle for mitochondrial gene therapy. On completion of his PhD in 2000, Dr Bigger joined Dr Mike Themis, Imperial College, London to work on a Wellcome Trust collaborative project with Cancer Research UK, investigating gene delivery to stem cells for liver diseases. In 2004 he joined Dr Suzanne Watt’s group in Oxford University and the National Blood Service as a Senior Research Scientist to work on mechanisms of stem cell homing. In 2006 Dr Bigger set up the Stem Cell & Neurotherapies laboratory at the University of Manchester and the Royal Manchester Children's hospital.

Research interests

Neurodegenerative metabolic diseases mainly affect children and often lack effective treatments.  Some, such as the lysosomal storage disease, Mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) I, can already be partly treated by allogeneic transplantation of bone marrow or cord blood derived stem cells from a healthy donor, but there is often a high associated risk of morbidity and mortality when using mismatched transplants.

Dr Bigger’s Stem Cell & Neurotherapies laboratory uses a multidisciplinary approach to investigate stem cell and gene therapies for neurological diseases. It consists of two programmes


MPS lysosomal disease group

  1. Comparative neuropathology and mechanisms of neurodegeneration in models of MPS disease
  2. Clinical development of novel stem cell and gene therapies in neurodegenerative lysosomal diseases
  3. Biomarker development
  4. The therapeutic use of haematopoietic stem cell transplantation in neurodegenerative disease
  5. The use of substrate reducing agents to ameliorate mucopolysaccharide diseases.

The Brain Tumour group

  1. Brain tumour stem cell biology and their interaction with Microglia in vivo
  2. Novel therapies for brain tumours using high throughput drug screening in cancer stem cell lines derived from primary gliomas

We are primarily a research laboratory but have close clinical links, with both the MPS and metabolic disease patients and neurosurgical patients.


Lentiviral transduced eGFP positive GL-261 glioma tumour cells

Image: Lentiviral transduced eGFP positive GL-261 glioma tumour cells implanted orthotopically into the brains of C57BL/6 mice, demonstrating the infiltrative component of microglia in the brain tumour microenvironment. Green: eGFP expressing GL261 cells, Red: Iba-1 microglia/macrophages, Blue: DAPI nuclear stain



2014 - Videolinks

My collaborations

Group Members and Affiliated Staff

  • Dr Simon Jones - Consultant, Head of Willink Biochemical Genetics Unit
  • Dr Rob Wynn - Consultant, Head of Bone Marrow Transplantation Unit
  • Dr Becki Holley - Senior Postdoctoral Associate
  • Dr Claire O'Leary - Postdoctoral Associate
  • Dr Stuart Ellison -Postdoctoral Associate
  • Mr Kenny Yu - Speciality Registrar Neurosurgery/PhD student
  • Mr Ricky Pal -Speciality Registrar ENT/MD student
  • Miss Ai Yin Liao - Research Technician/part time PhD
  • Miss Helen Parker -PhD Student
  • Mr Saam Yoshani - PhD Student
  • Miss Helene Gleitz - PhD Student




  • Dr Cathy Merry, University of Manchester. Heparan sulphate and cellular interactions in neurodegenerative diseases
  • Dr Maria Canal, University of Manchester. Circadian profiling in MPS disease
  • Dr James Fildes, University of Manchester. Immunology in lysosomal disease
  • Professsor Nancy Rothwell, University of Manchester. Microglial interactions with brain tumours
  • Mr Ian Kamaly and Mr Omar Pathmanaban - Neurosurgery, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. Brain tumour treatment development
  • Imagen Biotech Ltd


  • Professor Adrian Thrasher and Professor Bobby Gaspar, UCL. Stem cell gene therapy for lysosomal diseases
  • Professor Frits Wijburg, AMC Amsterdam. Biomarker development for lysosomal diseases
  • Professor Alexey Pshezhetsky, Sainte Justine Children's Hospital, Montreal, Canada. Gene therapy for MPSIIIC


Job Opportunities

We offer laboratory placements for motivated high quality project students on Manchester University Medical undergraduate or postgraduate MSc and MRes courses and will consider self-funded internships for excellent non-clinical or clinical candidates wishing to gain laboratory experience in the field.

Funded posts are advertised on the University jobsite and national websites such as

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

Methodological knowledge

2013 - Videolinks - Rare Disease Report

2012 - Videolinks


Main Areas of Expertise

  • Lysosomal disease model characterisation and treatment

  • Stem cell biology and treatment of primary brain tumours

  • Haematopoetic stem cell gene therapy and tolerance induction

  • Haematopoietic cell migration and interactions within bone marrow and neurological niches

  • Clinical translation of gene and cell therapies



The laboratory is funded by a programme grant and subsidiary grants from the to Dr Bigger

We gratefully acknowledge past and present funders including: The Norah Al Balla foundation, Great Ormond Street Research Chraity, Action Medical Research, Jonah's Just Begun, The Lady Shauna Gosling Trust, The Sanfilippo Children's Research Foundation (Canada), The Ollie G Ball,The National MPS Society (US), The Irish MPS society,  The Children's Bone Marrow Trust, BBSRC, The Manchester Biomedical Research Centre, Department of Health, CMFT NHS trust endowments, The Association for Glycogen Storage Disorders, The Brain Tumour Charity, The GEM appeal, Lois Gosling,

as well as contributions from the MPS societies of Austria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Regenerative Medicine Network
  • Advanced Materials in Medicine
  • Lydia Becker Institute
  • Christabel Pankhurst Institute


  • gene therapy
  • lysosomal diseases
  • stem cells
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • haematopoietic stem cells
  • neuropathology
  • glioma
  • glioblastoma
  • stem cell gene therapy
  • mucopolysaccharidosis
  • sanfilippo


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