The Conversation with Professor Victoria Chapman at University of Nottingham
|| February 01: 2018: The University of Nottingham News || ά. Professor Victoria
Chapman is a professor of
Neuropharmacology at the
University of Nottingham and leads a research group focused on
mechanisms of chronic pain. She is deputy director of the Arthritis Research UK
Centre of Excellence in Arthritis Pain, where she is responsible for preclinical
studies, and is the lead of the University’s Health
and Wellbeing Global Research Theme.
You lead the Health and Wellbeing Global Research Theme:GRT. What does this
entail: The aim of our theme is to increase the breadth and quality of research
interactions between schools, faculties and campuses, preventing research silos,
and increasing the impact of our research outputs. The Health and Wellbeing GRT
encompasses many of the great research challenges facing the world today,
ranging from chronic inflammatory diseases, the impact of ageing upon the brain
and the musculoskeletal system and tackling antimicrobial resistance.
This theme includes vital opportunities arising from fundamental advances in
stem cell research which are leading to novel regenerative medicine therapies
and the development and application of healthcare technologies. My role is to
oversee and coordinate the University’s research efforts in these priority
areas, encouraging and enabling efforts to make step-changes in the research
delivered here at Nottingham.
How does your work fit within the Health and Wellbeing GRT: My own research fits
well with a number of the Research Priority Areas: Musculoskeletal Health in
Ageing and Wellbeing, Translational Biomedical Imaging and Brain Health across
the Lifespan. In the future I would like to start a dialogue with Healthcare
Technologies over research collaborations.
How would you explain your research: The experience of pain is fundamental to
survival: it serves to protect us from external damage, can alert us to
underlying disease and forces us to take it easy and let injuries heal. Most
people have experienced short-lasting pain which is easily treated with drugs
such as ibuprofen. However, many individuals of all ages experience long-lasting
pain which is either difficult to treat with existing drugs, or requires
sustained drug treatment which can lead to unwanted side-effects.
Our research is focused on understanding the mechanisms that mediate pain
responses, both at the level of the sensory nerves and within the central
nervous system. Using this information, alongside evidence from pharmacological
studies using cellular and molecular biology, we can identify cellular targets,
for example receptor proteins or enzymes, for new drugs which should reduce
pain. This type of mechanistic research shows that not all chronic pain is the
same, for example drug targets for chronic pain arising from nerve damage,
neuropathic pain, are different to those for inflammatory arthritis pain.
What inspired you to pursue this area of research: My interest in understanding
how drugs work, and the systems they interact with, resulted in me studying
Pharmacology at University College London, where I was introduced to
neuropharmacology and specifically spinal mechanisms of pain processing by Dr
Tony Dickenson. He inspired many undergraduates to enter pain research, and four
of 15 students in my year have had careers working on chronic pain in either
academia or industry. I was fortunate to study for my PhD with Tony, which was
when I had my first interactions with the pharmaceutical industry, Sandoz, GSK,
Merck, and started to attend international conferences.
Following my PhD I spent two years in Paris working with Professor Jean-Marie
Besson, an international leader in pain research. Jean-Marie was an
unconventional role model, the hours were long, expectations were high,
questions were difficult and I was often left wondering if I had missed the
point! Jean-Marie inspired generations of pain researchers, including me. He
understood and promoted the importance of research being translationally
relevant long before it became a widely recognised need for clinical research.
How will your research affect the average person: The amount of knowledge
required for a change in medical practice such as drug treatments is vast, and
is achieved by the culmination of many different types of research by many
research teams across the world. Being part of the Arthritis Research UK Pain
Centre:ARUK at Nottingham means that my fundamental mechanistic research is
aligned to clinical studies carried out at Nottingham and across the UK. The
centre aims to advance understanding of arthritis pain mechanisms and to develop
new treatments, pharmacological and non-pharmacological. Understanding why
people experience chronic pain allows better informed treatment plans, which
will benefit individuals in the future.
What’s been the greatest moment of your career so far: I have been very
fortunate to work with many great people, some well-established scientists and
others just starting their careers. Enjoying the small victories is important
for my long-term success and mental strength; getting those controversial ideas
published, giving a good talk, submitting a grant you are proud of, successful
PhD defences. Seeing undergraduate students make the transition into
postgraduate success, especially in my area of research, makes me very happy!
Being part of the team awarded the centre of excellence for pain research by
ARUK has made a big impact on my research and standing within the research
What advice would you give to someone just starting out: Discuss your ideas with
colleagues and your mentor, get involved in the Research Priority Areas and meet
new people from across the University to collaborate with. Try to balance
research innovation with tried–and-tested methods, be open to other peoples’
opinions but don’t be distracted and dragged off-course. I am a firm believer in
the value of research planning to sustained long-term research success.
What’s the biggest challenge for researchers in your field: Chronic pain is
debilitating and impacts upon everyday life, disrupting work, sleep and
relationships. It is often associated with depression and anxiety, and recent
evidence suggests it alters cognitive function. The research community’s common
goal is the development of new, more effective analgesic drugs which have
reduced side-effects, which will improve the quality of life of millions of
How does being based at the University allow you to fulfil your research
aspirations: Nottingham has excellent research facilities and a strong
collaborative ethos. The willingness of colleagues from different schools and
faculties to collaborate and develop new strands of research has allowed me to
broaden my research base, allowing us the freedom to look at scientific
questions from different perspectives. I am very grateful to many colleagues
from across the University who helped me start my career in Nottingham and
continue to contribute to the goals of our pain research. ω.
Caption: Professor Victoria Chapman:
Image: University of Nottingham
Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World
You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of
Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That
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Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist.