Faculty of Medical Sciences

Staff Profile

Professor David Thwaites

Professor of Epithelial Physiology



Professor David T. Thwaites is the Professor of Epithelial Physiology in the Institute for Cell & Molecular Biosciences at Newcastle University.

Areas of Expertise

Our main area of interest is the physiological function of membrane transporters in eukaryotes. The investigations range from molecular to whole organism and include analysis of the:

  • structure-function relationships of individual nutrient and drug transporters
  • physiological and pathophysiological characteristics of epithelial transport in the mammalian small intestine and kidney
  • role of membrane transporters in symbiotic relationships in invertebrates
  • role of amino acid transport in cancer cells


1997-1998 Certificate in Teaching & Learning, Newcastle University

1986-1989 PhD, Physiology, University of Liverpool

1983-1986 BSc (Hons), Physiological Sciences, Newcastle University

Previous positions

2007- Professor of Epithelial Physiology, Cell & Molecular Biosciences, Newcastle University

2001-2007 Reader in Gastrointestinal Physiology, Cell & Molecular Biosciences, Newcastle University

1997-2001 Lecturer, Physiological Sciences, Newcastle University

1993-1997 Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, Physiological Sciences, Newcastle University

1994 European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) Fellow, Institute of Physiology, University of Zürich, Switzerland

1989-1993 Research Associate, Physiological Sciences, Newcastle University

Membership of Learned Societies

The Physiological Society

British Pharmacological Society

Appointments & Awards

2017 Elected, Fellow of The Physiological Society

2015 External reviewer, MRes courses, PG Medicine Periodic Review, Liverpool University

2015 External assessor for Physiology, Research Quality Review, University College Cork, Ireland

2013 Organiser, IUPS 2013 symposium “Solute and ion cotransporters and exchangers at atomic resolution”, Birmingham

2013 Organiser, Physiological Society/APS symposium “Fishing with flies, worms and bacteria: emerging models for mammalian membrane transport and trafficking”, Boston, USA

2012-2016 Member of The Physiological Society Meetings Committee

2012-2015 Elected Council Member & Non-Executive Trustee, The Physiological Society

2012-2015 Editorial Board, British Journal of Pharmacology

2012-2013 Editor, Gastrointestinal Section, Current Opinion in Pharmacology

2012 Member of the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG) strategic working group “Scientists in Gastroenterology”

2012 Organiser, Physiology@Newcastle meeting

2011 Invited lecture, AAPS meeting, Washington, USA

2010-2013 Member of the international & local scientific programme committees (ISPC & LSPC) for the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS) 2013 conference

2010 Invited lecture, Shire Pharmaceuticals, Basingstoke

2010 External Examiner, BSc (Hons), Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

2009-2011 Panel Member, Wellcome Trust Physiological Sciences Funding Committee

2009 Organiser, The Physiological Society symposium “Do protons perform useful work? Sensing, signalling, symport & cycling”, Dublin, Ireland

2008-2010, External Examiner, MRes in Biomedical Sciences, Liverpool University

2008 Invited lecture, Rank Prize Funds Mini-Symposium, Windermere

2008 Organiser, Rank Prize Symposium on “Recent Advances in Nutrient Transport”

2007-2012 The Physiological Society Rep for Newcastle University

2006 Invited lecture, Digestion, Diet & Health meeting, Manchester

2006 Invited lecture, UK/Brazilian Physiological Society meeting, Ribeirao Preto, Brazil

2006 Invited lecture, German Physiological Society/FEPs meeting, Munich, Germany

2005 Invited lecture, University of Barcelona, Spain

2005 Invited lecture, 10th International Proton Transport Conference, San Diego, USA

2005 Organiser, Physiological Society/FEPS symposium “New Aspects of Sugar Absorption: Transport & Sensing”, Bristol

2005 Invited lecture, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany

2004-2010 Convenor of the ERG (Epithelial Research Group), a faculty strategic research group

2004 Invited lecture, Experimental Biology, Washington, USA

2004 Co-organiser, Transporters 2004 meeting, Cambridge

2003 Invited lecture, International Conference on Amino Acids and Proteins, Rome, Italy

2003 Organiser, The Physiological symposium "Epithelial Electrolyte Transport: Multi-Tasking & Hidden Talents", Newcastle upon Tyne

2003 Organiser, The Physiological Society symposium "Transport & Signalling: From Gut to Brain and Back Again", Newcastle upon Tyne

2003 Co-organiser, The Physiological Society meeting, Newcastle upon Tyne

2002-2008 Lecturer, PhD course on Biological Membranes, Drug Targets & Absorption Barriers, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

2002 Invited lecture, Transporters 2002, Germany

2002 Scientific Board Member, International Meeting on Transporters 2002, Germany

2001 Organiser, The Physiological Society symposium "Transporting the Essentials: Nutrient & Micronutrient Transporters", York

2001 Invited lecture, Rank Prize Funds Mini-Symposium, Grasmere

2000 Elected member of the British Pharmacological Society

2000-2004 Editorial Board, British Journal of Pharmacology

2000 Invited lecture, BBSRC Workshop, Warwick

1999-2005 Convenor of the Gastrointestinal Tract Special Interest Group, The Physiological Society

1999-2005 MRC Career Establishment Award

1999 Invited lecture, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, USA

1999 Organiser, The Physiological Society symposium "The Gut: Diet & Health", Newcastle upon Tyne

1999 Co-organiser, The Physiological Society meeting, Newcastle upon Tyne

1999 Invited lecture, Drug Metabolism Meeting, Warwick

1998 Invited lecture, Pfizer Central Research, Sandwich

1997 Invited lecture, International Congress on Amino Acids, Greece

1997 Invited lecture, FASEB Summer Research Conference, Colorado, USA

1997 Invited lecture, Wyeth-Ayerst, New York, USA

1996-1997 Consultant, European Advisory Board on Antibiotic Absorption

1996 Invited lecture, Wyeth-Ayerst, Paris, France

1995 Awarded The Physiological Society Glaxo-Wellcome Prize.

1994 Invited lecture, Ciba Pharmaceuticals, Horsham

1994 CIBA ACE award for collaboration in Europe

1994 Elected member of The Physiological Society

1994 European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) Fellowship, University of Zürich, Switzerland

1993-1997 Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship, Newcastle University

1993 Invited lecture, NATO Advanced Research Workshop, York



Research Interests

Membrane transporters are the gatekeepers of all cells and organelles, controlling influx and efflux of essential organic and inorganic solutes, drugs and excretory products. Each individual cell type possesses a unique, large and diverse complement of membrane transport proteins to enable that cell to interact with its environment to import and export all material essential for life. Carrier-mediated transmembrane transport is essential in nutrient absorption from diet, neurotransmission, drug transport, osmoregulation, pH homeostasis and in the supply of components for cell growth, protein synthesis and energy production. Previously unidentified transport systems play fundamental roles in organismal biology but their importance has been over looked. New transport systems are emerging as potential therapeutic targets. The overall aim of our studies is to identify the basic functional characteristics of individual transport systems so that the physiological and pathophysiological roles can be identified and rational approaches to drug design be developed. The research falls into a number of key areas:

  • Structure and function of nutrient and drug transporters
  • Epithelial transport in the small intestine and kidney: physiology & pathophysiology
  • The role of membrane transporters in symbiotic relationships in invertebrates
  • The role of pH homeostatic mechanisms in membrane transport
  • Amino acid transport in cancer cells

Novel transport proteins are characterised functionally by a combination of flux measurements, imaging and electrophysiological techniques using isolated cells or mammalian cell culture. Heterologous expression of novel transporters is accomplished using the Xenopus expression system.


Undergraduate Teaching

2014- Curriculum Chair, Physiological Sciences Degree Programme

Module Leader & Lecturer, PSC3011 Physiology of the Gastrointestinal Tract I

Module Leader & Lecturer, PSC3012 Integrated Physiology

Module Leader & Lecturer, PSC3013 Physiology of the Gastrointestinal Tract II

Lecturer, PSC2018 Human Anatomy for Physiologists

Project Supervisor, CMB3000 Research Projects

Postgraduate Teaching

PhD supervisor

Previous Teaching

1997-2003 Lecturer, Gastrointestinal Physiology, Stage 1 BDS

1997-2017 Seminar Leader, Stage 1 MBBS