Clifford J. Woolf, M.B., B.Ch., Ph.D.
Harvard Medical School
Clifford Woolf aims to reboot drug discovery to find a new way to treat pain and neurodegenerative diseases: effectively and responsibly.
Research in the Woolf group is devoted to investigating the way in which the functional, chemical and structural plasticity of neurons contributes to adaptive and maladaptive changes in the mammalian nervous system and to disease development and progression.
Our major efforts are devoted to the study of pain, the regeneration of the injured adult nervous system and neurodegenerative conditions. Most of our work is concentrated on primary sensory, motor and spinal cord neurons, using a multidisciplinary approach spanning humans and mice, molecular and cell biology, electrophysiology, neuroanatomy, integrative systems biology and behavior. Increasingly we use machine learning as a major analytic tool to interrogate our data.
A major part of our work is exploring disease phenotypes in human iPSC derived neurons and using these for large scale screens to identify novel targets and disease modifying compounds. The group works closely with a wide number of academic groups and the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry to identify and validate novel analgesics, neuroprotective agents, neuroimmune interactors and axonal growth promotors.
Current research includes study of those membrane receptors and ion channels that mediate inflammatory and neuropathic pain hypersensitivity, the role of transcription factors as master regulators of neuronal differentiation, growth and survival programs, contribution of intrinsic growth determinants in establishing the regenerative capacity if the peripheral nervous system, neuroimmune interactions in health and disease, and study of the pathophysiology of ALS.
Clifford Woolf is Director of the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center and the Neurobiology Program at Boston Children's Hospital. He trained for his M.D. and Ph.D. at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg South Africa before joining University College London, where he was a professor of neurobiology. Woolf moved to Boston as the first incumbent of the Richard J Kitz Chair of Anesthesia Research at Harvard Medical School and established the Neural Plasticity Research Group, based in the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He is a faculty member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School.