Richard Unwin

Richard Unwin, PhD


  • 3.30, Core Technology Facility (3rd Floor), 46 Grafton Street, 46 Grafton Street

    M13 9NT Manchester

    United Kingdom

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Personal profile


Senior Lecturer and Research Lead (Non-clinical), Division of Cancer Sciences


The aim of our laboratory is to analyse protein levels and modifications, including protein isoforms, in primary (clinical and pre-clinical) samples to determine key aspects of disease development or drug action, with the intention of using the knowledge gained to identify and develop novel therapeutics.

My primary interest in this regard is the study of the pathogenesis of age-related chronic diseases including dementia and cancer. However, we have active collaborations in other areas, including in complications of diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease and Age-related Macular Degeneration.

I am actively involved in public engagement activities and am a PE champion for the faculty (profile).

In 2020, I co-founded a spinout, Complement Therapeutics (



Richard obtained a BSc. in Biology, and an MSc. (Distinction) in Oncology from Nottingham University before completing his PhD in Leeds, applying proteomics to study renal cell carcinoma and developing methods for identifying tumour markers and antigens.

Moving to Manchester, he developed methods for the proteomic analysis of leukaemic and normal haematopoietic cell and stem cell (phospho)proteomes, establishing mass spectrometry for large-scale relative protein quantification and phosphorylation site mapping. During this time, he developed the MIDAS (MRM-Initiated Detection and Sequencing) workflow for the sensitive detection of post-translational modifications, including phosphorylation, acetylation and proline hydroxylation. This workflow was extended to include relative and 'absolute' quantification of post-translational modification levels between samples, and is useful for the detection of any peptide, particularly in establishing MRM/SRM-type assays for biomarker validation workflows.

In 2011, he took up the post of Proteomics Lead at Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust as part of the Centre for Advanced Discovery and Experimental Therapeutics (CADET), a joint venture with The University of Manchester. The Centre focussed on the discovery of novel targets for therapeutic intervention, defining key pathways in disease progression, and extending these studies into the development and characterisation of novel therapeutics. As well as standard -omics-type analysis, Richard developed assays for targeted quantification of proteins and small molecules, providing data on pharmacokinetics on both new and existing medications, and allowing the analysis of novel disease biomarkers in large sample cohorts.

In April 2017, Richard moved back to The University of Manchester to take up a Research Fellowship position to pursue his own research into how protein expression levels are altered in diseases, primarily in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease.

In April 2019, he was awarded a Senior Lectureship and became Deputy Director of the Stoller Biomarker Discovery Centre, which has subsequently become the Stoller Analytical Centre for Clinical Discovery and Diagnosis, where Richard leads on Clinical Proteomics and advises on clinical mass spectrometry projects across the Faculty.

Research interests

My key research interests lie in the analysis protein expression changes which underpin pathogenesis, particularly in neurodegenerative diseases. The aim of this work is to dissect molecular events which are involved in disease development, even in cases where disease is subclinical, to provide information on key processes which contribute to the development of pathology.

In turn this may involve the development of novel tools for protein analysis primarily involving mass spectrometry, and their application to disease characterisation, including identification of key pathways in disease development and identification and characterisation of novel therapeutic targets.These tools encompass both global proteome profiling (small sample number, many proteins) or targeted analysis (fewer and specific target proteins/peptides, many samples).

We are also part of several collaborations which aim to develop or apply novel data processing tools to improve the quality and utility of proteomics data handling, statistics and outputs.



My collaborations

Key Collaborators:

Prof Garth Cooper (University of Aukland)

Prof Paul Bishop (Professor of Ophthalmology and Matrix Biology)

Prof. Andrew Dowsey (University of Bristol)

Dr. Natalie Gardiner (Division of Neuroscience, FBMH, The University of Manchester)

Dr. Simon Clark (University of Tuebingen)


Methodological knowledge

Mass Spectrometry
Liquid Chromatography
Protein chemistry
Peptide and protein relative quantification
Assay development and biomarkers
Protein purification and characterisation
Post-Translational Modification analysis
Western Blotting  


  • PhD; University of Leeds, UK 2002
  • MSc. Oncology (with distinction); University of Nottingham 1998
  • BSc. (Hons) Biology; University of Nottingham 1997

Social responsibility

I am actively involved in a wide range of public engagement activities. I am part of a team delivering events to schoolchildren as part of science events, and was been awarded funding for the Royal Society to develop resources for a primary school science week. In these activities, participants are invited to diagnose diabetes by way of a demonstration urine test (dipstick) and blood test (using paper chromatography). We have also developed an A-level study day where students at local colleges visit the University and  learn about diabeteic complication vis a 'Dragons Den'-style pitch for funding, and an activity where we look at  identifying markers of disease processes and how these may be used clinically. To supplement these activities, we have recently developed a series of short animated videos explaining our research. these can be found here.

I am a PE champion for the faculty (profile).

I also Chair of the governing body of Arlies Community Primary School, Stalybridge.

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

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Proteomics-based Approaches to the Identification of Novel Antigens and Markers in Renal Cell Carcinoma, University of Leeds

Oct 1998Nov 2002

Master of Science, University of Nottingham

Sept 1997Sept 1998

Bachelor of Science, Biology, University of Nottingham

Sept 1994Jul 1997

Areas of expertise

  • QH301 Biology
  • Molecular biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Proteomics
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • LC-MS
  • Biomarkers
  • Dementia
  • innate immune system
  • Complement Cascade

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Dementia@Manchester
  • Manchester Precision Medicine Institute
  • Digital Futures
  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre


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