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Dr Sylvia L.F. Pender BSc (Hons), PhD

Associate Professor (Reader) in Mucosal Immunology

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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 diseases.

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

Sylvia obtained her PhD in pathology/immunology in 1996 in Prof Tom MacDonald's lab in St Bartholomew's and the Royal London School of Medicine, University of London.  She moved to Southampton to take up a non-clinical lecturer position in 2000.

Her current research focuses on newly discovered functions of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their related proteins which play important roles in anti-inflammatory processes, anti-microbial infection, wound healing, 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.

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 & Management Studies, 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. 1995-2000

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 2015 - 2019

Research interests

Sylvia’s research interest is based on the excessive production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) which contributes to the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases.   This knowledge is applied to the disease mechanisms in other inflammatory disorders such as those in the eye, heart, joint, lung and skin. The regulation of these enzymes is governed by the inappropriate activation of the immune system, and the defective production of their natural inhibitors called tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMPs). When myofibroblasts are over-stimulated by the increasing level of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IFN-γ, TNF-α and IL-1ß, MMP productions are dramatically increased.  Tissue inflammation and mucosal ulceration ensue when MMPs/TIMPs are not appropriately regulated. Sylvia has demonstrated that synthetic inhibitors of MMPs can also 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 consist of 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.

The current research extends these mechanistic studies of the immuno-regulatory response to tissue remodelling and sits as in the interface of immunosenescence/ inflammageing and immunometabolism in a variety of disease states and organs using preclinical models and clinical trials.

Current research themes:

  • Role of the gut microbiome in regulating obesity and metabolism under the influence of nutrition, environment and MMPs/TIMPs pathways
  • Rejuvenating senescence adult progenitor stem cells for regenerative medicine. 
  • Immunomodulatory effects of reactive oxygen species in antimicrobial resistance and wound healing
  • The pivotal role of TIMP3 in bone health and ageing
  • Biomarkers to detect early stages of inflammation-mediated colorectal cancer using multidisciplinary methods such as molecular biology, transcriptomics, proteomics and computer tomography bio-imaging.
  • The role of NK cells during ageing and immunity

Postgraduate student supervision

MDs supervised to completion 3

PhDs supervised to completion 8

MMedSci supervised to completion 1


  • Charalambos Rossides (IfLS/FEE/Nikon Metrology; PhD)
  • Ahmad Alzahrani (Saudi Cultural Bureau; PhD)
  • Rachel Meadows (CUHK/FoMPS; PhD)
  • Olivia Lee (SME/FoMPS; PhD)


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

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 2000)

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 - 2019)
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Book Chapters




BM4 and BM5 Deliver lectures in Inflammatory Bowel Disease symposium introduce fundamental immunological aspects of gut inflammation.

BM4 As a graduate group facilitator since 2005 to present.

MMedSci research supervisor

All International students  Provide pastoral support in the Faculty, organizes social gatherings and a buddy system for all PGR, PGT and UG international students in the 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

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