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The University of Southampton
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Dr Sylvia L.F. Pender BSc (Hons), PhD

Associate Professor in Mucosal Immunology,

Dr Sylvia L.F. Pender's photo
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Dr Sylvia L.F. Pender is Associate Professor (Reader) in Mucosal Immunology, within Medicine at the University of Southampton. She was one of the first to discover the involvement of matrix metalloproteinases in the immune mediated responses which lead to mucosal tissue inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease.

As a mucosal immunologist, I am interested in investigating how the mucosal adaptive and innate responses can modulate disease outcomes and how intervention in them can improve the lives of patients

Her current research focuses on newly discovered functions of MMPs and their related proteins which play important roles in anti-inflammatory processes, anti-microbial infection, metabolic syndrome and the diseases of ageing.

Dr Pender has played a leading role in the protease field and is an author of more than 50 original research articles on this topic [h-index: 29 (ISI Web of Science); 33 (Google Scholar)]. She is on the editorial board of the World Journal of Gastroenterology and the International Scholar Research Network – Inflammation. She is also an EU FP7 grant evaluator.

She is currently the Adjunct Associate Professor at International Medical University in Malaysia. She was a VC award winner in 2010 for promoting internationalization in the University. She is also a Global Partnership Award winner in 2013 for enhancing international research collaboration and partnership with Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.


BSc.(Hons), Biochemical Sciences, University of Keele 1992
PhD, University of London 1996 (with an Overseas Research Scholarship award)

Appointments held

Research Fellow St Bartholomew’s and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of London. 1995

Non-clinical Lecturer, University of Southampton 2000

Senior Lecturer, University of Southampton 2005

Reader in Mucosal Immunology, University of Southampton 2009

Adjunct Associate Professor, International Medical University in Malaysia since 2015

Research interests

Sylvia’s research interest is based on the imbalance and excessive production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) contributing to the pathogenesis of many gut diseases.   This knowledge is applied to other diseases such as those in the eye, heart, joint, lung and skin. The regulation of these enzymes can be governed by the inappropriate activation of the immune system or a defect in production or control of their natural inhibitor, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMPs). When myofibroblasts are over-stimulated with pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α and IL-1ß, MMP production is increased and mucosal ulceration ensues. Synthetic inhibitors of MMPs can inhibit the T cell-mediated mucosal inflammation.

Two EU FP7 funded collaborative research projects “IBDase” and "IPODD" were awarded to Sylvia’s research group in 2008. The two consortia involved twenty-one European research groups from different disciplines including genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, mucosal immunology, microbiology, and translational medicine brought together to address the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases in patients and animal models.

Current research extends these mechanistic studies of the immuno-regulatory response to tissue remodelling in a variety of disease states and organs using preclinical models and clinical trials.

Current research themes:

  • Role of gut microbiome in regulating metabolism under the influence of nutrition, environment and MMPs pathways
  • Stem cells and regenerative medicine using gingival derived stem cells and adipose derived stem cells
  • Pivotal role of TIMP3 in bone health
  • Biomarkers to detect early stages of inflammation in colorectal cancer using multidisciplinary methods such as molecular biology, transcriptomics, proteomics and bio-imaging using computer tomography.
  • Role of NK cells during ageing and immunity


Clinical and Experimental Sciences

Affiliate Department(s)

Infection and Immunity Research group, NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility, Institute for Life Sciences, Centre for Human Development, Stem Cells and Regeneration

Postgraduate student supervision

MDs supervised to completion 2

PhDs supervised to completion 5


  • Tim Biggs (ENT Surgical Research Fellow; PhD)
  • Ali Salamat (RCS ENT Surgical Research Fellow; MD)
  • Marie Strickland (VC/DTA/A*STAR student; PhD)
  • Rebecca Holding (Rosetrees Trust; PhD)
  • Charalambos Rossides (IfLS/FEE/Nikon Metrology; PhD)
  • Jocelyn Cheuk (FoM; MMedSci)
  • Ahmad Alzahrani (Saudi Cultural Bureau; PhD)
  • Vacancy (CUHK/FoMPS; PhD)
Faculty of Medicine
  • International Student Advisor to offer pastoral support to all international students in the Faculty (2003 – present)
  • Member of Postgraduate Research Program Committee to oversee student matters related to international students (2004 – present)
  • Home Office license holder (2005 – present)
  • Associate Director International (2012-2014) – to assist the Associate Dean International & Enterprise in developing internationalization and global engagements
  • FINE group member to promote International research partnership (2012 – 2014)
University of Southampton
  • University of Southampton Internationalization Forum (USIF), founder and organizing committee member
  • WiSET (Women in Sciences Engineering and Technology) Steering Committee member (2013 – present)
  • VC's award winner for promoting internationalization in the University of Southampton (2010)
  • Global Partnership Award winner to enhance international research collaborations (2013)
  • Members of AWERB (Animal Welfare Ethics Review Board) (2015 to present)
National and International responsibilities
  • EU grant evaluator
  • Academic Editors-in-chief, Editorial Board, World Journal of Gastroenterology (2009-2013)
  • Member of the Editor Board, World Journal of Gastroenterology (2014-present)
  • Editor Board, International Scholar Research Network – Inflammation (2011-present)
  • Adjunct Associate Professor in IMU (International Medical University) in Malaysia (2015 - present)


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Book Chapters




BM4 and BM5. Deliver lectures in Inflammatory Bowel Disease symposium, introduces basic immunological aspects of gut inflammation.

BM4 as a graduate group facilitator since 2005 to present.

MMedSci research supervisor

All International students

Provides pastoral support in the Faculty, organizes social gatherings and buddy system for all PGR, PGT and UG students in role of International Student Advisor.


Dr Sylvia L.F. Pender
Faculty of Medicine / Academic Unit of Clinical & Experimental Sciences, University of Southampton, Sir Henry Wellcome Laboratories, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, SO16 6YD, UK
Room Number: SGH//MP813
Telephone:(023) 8120 5081

Room Number: SGH//MP813

Telephone:(023) 8120 5081

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