Brown, Sara

Professor, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, Professor of Molecular and Genetic Dermatology

Accepting PhD Students

  • 3121 Citations
  • 27 h-Index
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Personal profile


Dr Sara Brown graduated with Honours in Medicine & Surgery from the University of Edinburgh in 1996 and completed her specialist training in Dermatology in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 2009. Supervised by Heather Cordell, Nick Reynolds and John Burn, Sara obtained an MD in Human Genetics with commendation in 2008, for her research looking at the role of filaggrin nulll mutations in a population-based cohort study.

Sara was awarded a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellowship in 2009, to continue her research on the role of filaggrin in atopic disease. She spent 10 months as a post-CCT Fellow in Paediatric Dermatology in Dublin, Ireland, with Alan Irvine and Rosemarie Watson before moving to Dundee in October 2009, as an Honorary NHS Consultant Dermatologist and to further her molecular genetic training in Irwin McLean's laboratory, University of Dundee.

In 2014 Sara established her own laboratory in the School of Medicine within Ninewells Hospital, Dundee. In 2015 Sara was the first UK dermatologist to be awarded a prestigious Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship in Clinical Science, in recognition and support of her on-going research in molecular genetic dermatology focussed on understanding eczema pathogenesis. In October 2015 Sara was promoted to a personal chair in Molecular and Genetic Dermatology.

Sara combines her research with work as a Consultant Dermatologist; she provides specialist clinics in NHS Tayside for children and adults with atopic eczema, patients with rare genetic skin diseases, and general dermatology care.


Genetic mechanisms in atopic eczema

Atopic eczema is an itchy inflammatory skin disease which has increased in prevalence over recent decades. It is a complex trait, resulting from the interaction of multiple genetic and environmental factors, but eczema is highly heritable, demonstrating the importance of genetic predisposition.

Multiple risk loci have been identified by genome-wide association studies, but a locus on chromosome 1q21 shows the strongest association with atopic eczema. Within this locus, loss-of-function mutations in the gene encoding the skin barrier protein filaggrin (FLG) are well known to increase risk of eczema. Sara's work, in collaboration with Irwin McLean and Alan Irvine, has contributed to defining the role of FLG in multiple atopic diseases, including mild, moderate and severe eczema, atopic asthma, allergic rhinitis and peanut allergy. Sara has also shown that copy number variation within the highly repetitive FLG gene has a dose-dependent effect on eczema risk, indicating that treatments aimed at increasing filaggrin expression may be of therapeutic benefit.

Sara was the first to apply single molecule RNA sequencing for atopic skin, using paediatric samples collected in Dublin, Ireland. Detailed analysis, performed in collaboration with the Data Analysis Group, University of Dundee, has highlighted a stress response in filaggrin-deficient skin and dysregulation of lipid networks in FLG wild-type skin.

In her current work, Sara is using next generation deep sequencing to investigate copy number variation in genes related to FLG. Sara's laboratory uses organotypic skin culture to test the role of candidate genes/transcripts for which functional mechanisms are unknown with targeted genetic manipulation and detailed proteomic anlaysis, in collaboration with Angus Lamond, University of Dundee. This work will move towards identifying targets for much-needed therapy development.

Sara's research funding has totalled over £2.5 million in the last 6 years.


Sara is a member of the steering committee for the UK Translational Research Network in Dermatology (UK-TREND), the British Association of Dermatologists Dermatology and Genetic Medicine network (BADGEM) and a councillor within the International Eczema Council (IEC).

Sara contributes to international collaborative work on genome-wide analyses in eczema and gene-environment interaction with the EAGLE consortium and BIOMAP.


DRAMS student-led journal club - 2013- current

BMSc - Human Genetics and Experimental Medicine - lecturer 2012-current

Year 2 undergraduate dermatology teaching for medical students - Genetics; Dermatitis - 2012-current

PhD supervisor - 1 British Skin Foundation funded PhD student at the present time, plus MRC PhD rotational students

StR Research Course - lecturer - 2012-current

Academic lead for Academic Foundation Programme - 2015-current

Annual Advanced Paediatric Dermatology Course - co-organiser - 2010- current

Wellcome Trust Genomics for Dermatology Course - organising committee - 2016 and 2018

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Medicine, Newcastle University

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, University of Edinburgh

Bachelor of Science, University of Edinburgh

External positions

Wellcome Trust Expert Review Group, Wellcome Trust

Sep 2016 → …

IEC councillor


  • RL Dermatology
  • Atopic eczema, Genodermatoses
  • QH426 Genetics
  • Genetic epidemiology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Sara Brown is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • 14 Similar Profiles
Atopic Dermatitis Medicine & Life Sciences
Skin Medicine & Life Sciences
Eczema Medicine & Life Sciences
Emollients Medicine & Life Sciences
Clothing Medicine & Life Sciences
Silk Medicine & Life Sciences
Randomized Controlled Trials Medicine & Life Sciences
Genome-Wide Association Study Medicine & Life Sciences

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Projects 2013 2024

Research Output 2003 2019

1 Citation (Scopus)

EMSY expression affects multiple components of the skin barrier with relevance to atopic dermatitis

Elias, M. S., Wright, S. C., Remenyi, J., Abbott, J. C., Bray, S. E., Cole, C., Edwards, S., Gierlinski, M., Glok, M., McGrath, J. A., Nicholson, W. V., Paternoster, L., Prescott, A. R., Have, S. T., Whitfield, P. D., Lamond, A. I. & Brown, S. J., Aug 2019, In : Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 144, 2, p. 470-481 12 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Atopic Dermatitis
Genome-Wide Association Study
Skin Diseases
12 Citations (Scopus)
67 Downloads (Pure)

Evidence of a causal relationship between body mass index and psoriasis: A mendelian randomization study

Budu-Aggrey, A., Brumpton, B., Tyrrell, J., Watkins, S., Modalsli, E. H., Celis-Morales, C., Ferguson, L. D., Vie, G. Å., Palmer, T., Fritsche, L. G., Løset, M., Nielsen, J. B., Zhou, W., Tsoi, L. C., Wood, A. R., Jones, S. E., Beaumont, R., Saunes, M., Romundstad, P. R., Siebert, S. & 8 others, McInnes, I. B., Elder, J. T., Davey Smith, G., Frayling, T. M., Åsvold, B. O., Brown, S. J., Sattar, N. & Paternoster, L., 31 Jan 2019, In : PLoS Medicine. 16, 1, p. 1-18 18 p., e1002739.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Random Allocation
Body Mass Index
Mendelian Randomization Analysis
Skin Diseases

Genetics of Atopic Dermatitis: From DNA Sequence to Clinical Relevance

Løset, M., Brown, S. J., Saunes, M. & Hveem, K., Aug 2019, In : Dermatology . 235, 5, p. 355-364 10 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Atopic Dermatitis
Gene-Environment Interaction
Precision Medicine
5 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)

Human and computational models of atopic dermatitis: A review and perspectives by an expert panel of the International Eczema Council

Eyerich, K., Brown, S. J., Perez White, B. E., Tanaka, R. J., Bissonette, R., Dhar, S., Bieber, T., Hijnen, D. J., Guttman-Yassky, E., Irvine, A., Thyssen, J. P., Vestergaard, C., Werfel, T., Wollenberg, A., Paller, A. S. & Reynolds, N. J., 1 Jan 2019, In : Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 143, 1, p. 36-45 10 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Atopic Dermatitis
Biological Models
Precision Medicine

Male genital lichen sclerosus and filaggrin

Shim, T. N., Brown, S. J., Francis, N. D., Dinneen, M., Hawkins, D., Muneer, A., Minhas, S., McLean, W. H. I. & Bunker, C. B., 17 Jun 2019, In : Clinical and Experimental Dermatology. 2 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter

Lichen Sclerosus et Atrophicus
Skin Diseases


Diploma of Special Recognition

Sara Brown (Recipient), 2015

Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

Double commendation in Stephen Fry awards

Sara Brown (Recipient), 2018

Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

Fellowship of Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

Sara Brown (Recipient), 2016

Prize: Election to learned society

Research recognition

Sara Brown (Recipient), 2018

Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

Atopic Dermatitis

Activities 2007 2019

World Congress of Dermatology, Milan

Sara Brown (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

Longitudinal latent class analysisidentifies distinct subgroupsof paediatric atopic eczema

Sara Brown (Speaker)
Apr 2018

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

British Association of Dermatologists Annual Meeting

Sara Brown (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

What does genetics tell us about AD and atopy?

Sara Brown (Speaker)
Sep 2018

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

Press / Media

Atopic eczema: one size does not fit all

Sara Brown


1 Media contribution

Press/Media: Research

Public engagement - Atopic Art: Expressions of eczema

Sara Brown


1 item of Media coverage

Press/Media: Other

Undergraduate student publishes review on eczema

Sara Brown


1 Media contribution

Press/Media: Research

Silk clothing does not improve eczema in children

Sara Brown


1 Media contribution

Press/Media: Research

Rare skin disease gene discovered

Elizabeth Pohler, Alan Irvine, Toshifumi Nomura, John A. McGrath, W. H. Irwin McLean, Neil Wilson, Frances J. D. Smith, Aileen Sandilands, Christian Cole, Alan Evans, Sara J. Brown & David R. Goudie


1 item of Media coverage

Press/Media: Research