Professor Anne Willis

Unit Director and Programme Leader

Headshot of Professor Anne Willis

MRC Toxicology Unit
Hodgkin Building
Lancaster Road

Phone: 0116 2525611 (direct)

Or please try
EA: Tara Stevenson
Phone: 0116 2525544

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 5544 (Secretary)

Qualifications and Personal History

Unit Programme: Post-transcriptional control of gene expression following toxic injury

Key words: Toxic injury, post-transcriptional control, RNA binding proteins, mRNA translation, therapeutic RNAs, tRNAs

Investigator Biography

Anne obtained a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of London while working in the Imperial Cancer Research Fund laboratories (now CRUK) on DNA repair with Dr Tomas Lindahl. She then moved to Cambridge to work with Professor Richard Perham in the Department of Biochemistry, where she also held a Junior Research Fellowship and then a College Lectureship at Churchill College Cambridge.  Anne was appointed to her first independent position as a Lecturer in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Leicester, progressing to Reader in 2002 and Professor in 2004, from 2000-2005 she held a BBSRC Advanced Fellowship. In 2004, she was appointed Director of Cancer Research Nottingham and Chair of Cancer Cell Biology, where she was based in the School of Pharmacy.  From 2009-2013 Anne held a BBSRC Professorial Fellowship. In 2010 Anne became Director of the MRC Toxicology Unit. Anne was appointed as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation in 2015, and in 2017 awarded an OBE for services to biomedical sciences and supporting the careers of women scientists.


2010-Present  Director, MRC Toxicology Unit
2008-2013 BBSRC Professorial Fellowship
2004-2010 Professor in Cancer Cell Biology, RNA Biology Group, University of Nottingham
2000-2005 BBSRC Advanced Fellow
2004 Professor in Biochemistry, University of Leicester
2002-2004 Reader in Biochemistry, University of Leicester
1992-2000 Lecturer in Biochemistry, University of Leicester
1988-1992 Junior Research Fellow at Churchill College Cambridge & Research Associate in the Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge
PhD ICRF (now CRUK) Clare Hall laboratories working with Dr T Lindahl

Research Interests

Research Summary

Anne’s research in the Unit is directed towards understanding the role of post-transcriptional control in response to toxic injury with a focus on RNA-binding proteins, regulatory RNA motifs and tRNAs. Through our mechanistic research we are developing predictive adverse outcome models that can be shared with our industrial partners, in particular we are working to understand the “off target” effects of new modalities such as therapeutic RNAs. In addition to her Unit programme, Anne holds a Wellcome Trust investigator award (jointly with Professor Kathryn Lilley in Biochemistry) to research into the processes that drive localised mRNA translation, a Wellcome Trust collaborative grant to study the role of mRNA translation elongation control in health and disease, with additional funding from BBSRC, Bloodwise and Cancer Research Technologies (as part of translational alliance with industry).


Research Group

Dr Jana Alexandra, Veronica Dezi, Dr Stefano Grosso, Dr Rob Harvey, Dr Emilie Horvilleur, Dr Alberto Marini, Jashu Meisuria, Ryan Mordue, Tom Mulroney, Dr Tuija Poyry, Dr Vicky Pizzinga, Dr Ana Quintas, Dr Manasa Ramankrisna, Dr Liza Selly, Dr Mark Stoneley


Positions available

There are three Postdoctoral positions and one studentship available in the Willis laboratory. Please contact Amanda Harris for further details (

Selected Publications

Latest News