Brown, Sara

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

  • 3467 Citations
  • 28 h-Index

Research output per year

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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

Award Date: 1 Jan 2009

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, University of Edinburgh

Award Date: 1 Jan 1996

Bachelor of Science, University of Edinburgh

Award Date: 1 Jan 1994

External positions

Wellcome Trust Expert Review Group, Wellcome Trust

Sep 2016 → …

IEC councillor


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

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Research Output

Assessment of a causal relationship between body mass index and atopic dermatitis

Budu-Aggrey, A., Watkins, S. H., Brumpton, B., Løset, M., Tyrrell, J., Modalsli, E. H., Vie, G. Å., Palmer, T., Fritsche, L. G., Nielsen, J. B., Romundstad, P. R., Davey Smith, G., Åsvold, B. O., Paternoster, L. & Brown, S., 17 May 2020, In : Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access

Daily emollient during infancy for prevention of eczema: the BEEP randomised controlled trial

Chalmers, J. R., Haines, R. H., Bradshaw, L. E., Montgomery, A. A., Thomas, K. S., Brown, S. J., Ridd, M. J., Lawton, S., Simpson, E. L., Cork, M. J., Sach, T. H., Flohr, C., Mitchell, E. J., Swinden, R., Tarr, S., Davies-Jones, S., Jay, N., Kelleher, M. M., Perkin, M. R., Boyle, R. J. & 1 others, Williams, H. C., 21 Mar 2020, In : Lancet. 395, 10228, p. 962-972 11 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
  • 7 Citations (Scopus)
    24 Downloads (Pure)

    Genetics in Atopic Dermatitis: Historical Perspective and Future Prospects

    Brown, S. J., Elias, M. S. & Bradley, M., 9 Jun 2020, In : Acta Dermato-Venereologica. 100, p. 349-357 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

    Open Access
  • 6 Downloads (Pure)

    What have we learned from GWAS for atopic dermatitis?

    Brown, S. J., 8 Jun 2020, In : Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • 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
  • 3 Citations (Scopus)
    4 Downloads (Pure)


    Diploma of Special Recognition

    Brown, Sara (Recipient), 2015

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

    Double commendation in Stephen Fry awards

    Brown, Sara (Recipient), 2018

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

    Fellowship of Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

    Brown, Sara (Recipient), 2016

    Prize: Election to learned society

    Research recognition

    Brown, Sara (Recipient), 2018

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

  • Activities

    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