Garth Cooper

Garth Cooper, DPhil (Oxon), DSc (Oxon), FRCPA, FRSNZ, FMedSci


Personal profile


I was appointed Professor of Discovery and Experimental Medicine and Director of the Centre for Advanced Discovery and Experimental Therapeutics in 2011. I have also had a Chair at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, since 1995.

My research over the past decade has had two closely related aims: firstly, to elucidate the mechanisms of diabetic organ damage; secondly, to determine the metabolic basis of age-related dementia, starting with Alzheimer's Disease and Huntington's Disease and continuing with Parkinson's disease dementia and vascular dementia; and finally to use diabetic organ damage (particularly neurodegeneration) as a 'Rosetta Stone' to find mechanistically relevant perturbations that might be shared among them. This approach is based on epidemiological evidence and molecular data linking diabetes with common age-related dementias.

I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1998 and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK) in 2013.


After completing my medical and pathology training in New Zealand, I was awarded a Nuffield Medical Fellowship to study for a doctorate with Ken Reid in the MRC Immunohistochemistry Unit at the University of Oxford, where I discovered and isolated the beta-cell hormone amylin from the pancreatic islets of type-2 diabetes patients. Starting in Oxford and continuing in the USA and back in New Zealand, I characterised the two intertwined structure-activity relationships of amylin as a hormone and as a cytotoxic amyloid-forming protein. In 1987, I founded and was sole scientific founder of Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc., a biotechnology corporation in San Diego, California, USA. The company, where I was Chief Technical Officer/Executive Board Member until 1992, was set up to progress amylin as a drug lead, which underpinned the development of a new class of anti-diabetic medicines, termed amylin agonists. This ultimately lead to the licencing of pramlintide, the first non-aggregating amylin chimaera, Symlin®, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treatment of diabetes in 2005.

In 1993, I returned to New Zealand to become Associate Professor, then Professor at the University of Auckland, where I continued my research into amylin and other peptide hormones, demonstrating, for example, that amylin becomes deficient in both major types of diabetes and that human amylin causes islet beta-cell degeneration via the FAS/FASL/FADD/caspase-8 signaling pathway. In parallel my research has been translated into further new first-in-class therapeutic molecules for the treatment of diabetes: these are the synthetic GLP-1 agonists Byetta® and Bydureon®; and into the discovery of new classes of molecules that suppress amylin-mediated beta-cell death, which also have the potential to be new anti-diabetic agents.

More recently both in Auckland and since my appointment at The University of Manchester, I have shown that defective copper regulation is a substantive pathogenic mechanism causing diabetic organ damage in the heart and kidneys, and have identified severe metabolic perturbations in glucose, sorbitol, fructose, urea, vitamin B5 and copper that potentially cause neurodegeneration in age-related dementias.

I am also active in developing Intellectual Property related to my investigations. In addition to my publications in scientific journals, I have been awarded 47 international patents.  I consider these patents to be just as important as the journal articles, because they underpin the processes by which my research can be translated into new medicines, and also because they provide independent evidence of the novelty, originality, and utility of the research.

Research interests

Current projects in Manchester

  1. The molecular basis of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia - PhD
  2. The molecular basis of vascular dementia - PhD
  3. The molecular basis of Alzheimer's Disease and Huntington's Disease including the potential role of vitamin B5 in pathogenesis
  4. The role of copper in diabetic nephropathy


Methodological knowledge

To achieve my research goals, I apply powerful techniques aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms of disease: these include mass-spectrometry-based proteomics, metabolomics and metallomics; and transcriptomics and histology including immunohistochemistry. I undertake work in parallel using both nonclinical models and human clinical trials, emphasising the links between the two. At present, through CADET in Manchester, I am leading a programme in which such methods are being applied to the main ageing-related diseases, including dementia, diabetes and common forms of heart failure.



BSc, BSc (Hum Biol), MBChB, Dip Obst, DPhil (Oxon), FRCPA, DSc (Oxon)

My group

Michael Anderson - Project Manager

Stephanie Church - Metabolomics Technician

Melisssa Scholefield - PhD student

Sasha Philbert - PhD student 

My collaborations

  • Professors Yu Wang and Aimin Xu: “Mechanisms of obesity and diabetes”; Departments of Pharmacology and Pharmacy, and of Medicine, Li Ka Shing School of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, HK SAR, Peoples' Republic of China
  • Professor Donghai Wu and Liagxue Lai: "Molecular mechanisms of type-2 diabetes"; Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Peoples' Republic of China
  • Professor Ke Ding: “Medicinal chemistry of amylin-mediated beta-cell degeneration in type-2 diabetes”; Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Jinan University, Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Peoples' Republic of China
  • Professor Sally Poppitt: “Mechanisms of obesity and diabetes”; School of Biological Sciences and the University of Auckland Human Nutrition Unit, Faculty of Science, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Drs Shaoping Zhang and Jacqueline Aitken: "Experimental therapeutics for diabetes"; School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Dr Natalie Gardiner and Professor Paul Bishop: “Mechanisms of the diabetic complications”; Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, The University of Manchester, UK
  • Dr Richard Unwin, Professor Nigel Hooper, Professor Federico Roncaroli and Professor Stuart Allan: “Mechanisms and experimental therapeutics of dementia”; Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, The University of Manchester, UK
  • Professor Andrew Dowsey: "Statistical modelling of biological data"; Bristol Medical School and Bristol Veterinary School, University of Bristol, UK

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 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Science, Oxford University

Award Date: 28 Jul 2017

Doctor of Philosophy, The characterisation of amylin and analysis of its role in diabetes mellitus, Oxford University


Award Date: 28 Jul 1990

Clinical Biochemistry, Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (FRCPA)


Award Date: 2 Dec 1985

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, University of Auckland


Award Date: 1 May 1979

Bachelor of Science, Human Biology, University of Auckland


Award Date: 1 May 1976

Bachelor of Science, Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Auckland


Award Date: 1 May 1972

External positions

Visiting Professor of Experimental Pharmacology, Jinan University

1 Nov 201831 Oct 2023

Visiting Professor and High-End Foreign Expert to Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, Chinese Academy of Sciences

1 Jan 201431 Dec 2019

Visiting Research Professor of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Li Ka Shing School of Medicine, University of Hong Kong


Visiting Professor of Experimental Therapeutics, Medical Sciences Division, Oxford University

2010 → …

Professor of Biochemistry and Clinical Biochemistry, and of Medicine, University of Auckland

1995 → …

Areas of expertise

  • RM Therapeutics. Pharmacology
  • QP Physiology
  • RB Pathology

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Dementia@Manchester
  • Manchester Precision Medicine Institute
  • Digital Futures
  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


  • Diabetes
  • Dementia
  • Copper homeostasis
  • Heart failure
  • Central metabolism


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