Institute of Genetic Medicine

Staff Profile

Emeritus Professor Drew Rowan

Professor of Molecular Rheumatology



I am primarily interested in the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate the induction of the potent matrix-degrading proteinases that are involved in pathological tissue destruction. My focus is on both the metalloprteinases and the serine proteinases since these act extracellularly to degrade extacellular matrices.
My work therefore encompasses molecular events that occur both extracellulary (eg. proenzyme activation) as well as intracellularly (eg. cell signalling).
The generation of a detailed understanding of such fundamental events that drive the tissue destruction prevalent in arthritis may well yield new therapeutic targets to prevent further joint damage.


I initially trained as a proteinase biologist gaining expertise in enzyme purification and characterisation. I also have experience in enzyme processing and more recently as a cell and molecular biologist.

Roles and Responsibilities

I am currently the Head of the Musculoskeletal Research Group
Principal Investigator within the Musculoskeletal Research Group
Member of the Musculoskeletal Research Group Executive Committee


BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences (Plymouth, 1983).
PhD in Protein Biochemistry (Cambridge, 1989).

Previous Positions

Post-doctoral Researcher, Rheumatology Research Unit, Addenbrookes Hospital , Cambridge.
Post-doctoral Researcher, Animal Health Trust, Newmarket.
Post-doctoral Researcher, Joint Diseases Lab, Shriners Hospital, Montreal, Canada.
PhD Student, Strangeways Research Lab, Cambridge.


British Society for Matrix Biology
International Proteolysis Society
MRC College of Experts (Physiological Sciences)
Trustee of Fight Arthritis in the North East (FARNE)

Member of Research & Academic Capacity Committee for Arthritis Research UK

Associate Editor for Rheumatology



Research Interests

I am a proteinase biochemist with an interest in the molecular mechanisms that regulate enzymic activity and the transcriptional control of proteinase genes within the setting of joint diseases such as rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.

Other Expertise

Enzyme catalysis, structure/function and purification.
Inflammation cytokines and growth factors.
Signal transduction.

Current Work

Current projects focus on understanding the molecular effects that mediate synergistic gene transcription of various metalloproteinases as well as identify proteinases that are involved in the activation cascades of these extracellular matrix-degrading enzymes.
Other projects are assessing the impact of various signal transduction pathways that lead to the induction of metalloproteinase genes in chondrocytes.

Future Research

To delineate the interplay of multiple signal transduction pathways that mediate both transcriptional and post-transcriptional gene regulation of proteinases in connective tissue cells, and to further expand our understanding of the roles of key enzymes in cartilage destruction.

Research Roles

I am the Principal Investigator leading a team of researchers within the group that focus on the chondrocyte, the sole cell type present in articular cartilage. We are investigating the cell signalling that promotes the expression of matrix-degrading enzymes, and also study the roles of these enzymes in the destructive process.

Postgraduate Supervision

I currently supervise 4 PhD students.

Esteem Indicators

Deputy Head of the Musculoskeletal Research Group
visiting Scientist at the McMaster Centre for Gene Therapeutics in Canada (Oct-Dec 2006)


Major funding includes AR-UK Project Grants, an Oliver Bird Collaborative PhD Grant, and an AR-UK PhD Studentship Grant, plus local charity funding.


Rowan AD, Buttle DJ. Cysteine proteinases, production and use. U.K. Patent 1987, No. 87 24278.


Signalling, chondrocyte, cytokine, metalloproteinase, collagenase, serine proteinase.