Professor Dame Frances Ashcroft

GlaxoSmithKline Royal Society Research Professor, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics; Fellow of Trinity College


Dame Frances researches ion channels, a type of membrane protein in cells, to find out how they contribute to diabetes. She focuses on the role which certain ion channels play in insulin secretion, in both health and disease. She is interested in the function and structure of ion channels, how cell metabolism regulates channel activity, and how genetic mutations can cause changes to the ion channels and contribute to human disease. The ultimate goal is to shed light on the way that increased blood sugar stimulates the release of insulin from the cells in the pancreas, what goes wrong with this process in type 2 diabetes, and how drugs used to treat this condition exert their beneficial effects.

In November 2011 Dame Frances was named 2012 European Laureate in the L'Oreal-Unesco For Women in Science Awards. Alongside her research, she has written textbooks and popular science books including The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body and Life at the Extremes.


  • Diabetes
  • Cell physiology in the fight against disease
  • The role of ion channels (a class of membrane protein) in the regulation of insulin secretion and in disease
  • Public understanding of science

Media experience

Dame Frances has experience of working with the media, including radio and TV interviews.