Dr Joanna Denbigh

Lecturer in Pharmacology

Office Times

Please contact me via e-mail for an appointment


I graduated from the University of Salford with a 1st Class MChem in Analytical Chemistry, during which time I was awarded a MRSEC scholarship to carry out a 3 month research project at the University of Nebraska, USA and I spent a dedicated placement year working in the Drug Metabolism department at Pfizer, UK.

From here I entered industry as an Analytical Chemist for GlaxoSmithKline in Stevenage. My position in Chemical Development was to support the analytical requirements of pharmaceutical projects from early to late phase including scale up and pilot plant campaigns.

Following my time at GSK, I moved into a more educational and problem solving role as a Training and Technical Consultant for Crawford Scientific based across the UK. I developed a broad understanding of the challenges surrounding analysis in the pharmaceutical, fine chemicals, environmental and petrochemical industries whilst gaining vast experience in different vendors instrumentation, in particular Agilent and Waters.

This led me to Waters UK where I worked for 2 years as an Applications Chemist. I continued to work on a wide variety of small molecule bioanalytical projects and I developed methods for analysis of low level impurities in drug substances.

I was appointed as Associate Lecturer in the School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences at the University of Central Lancashire in November 2009 where I taught Analytical Chemistry across a variety of disciplines ranging from Chemistry to Toxicology and Pharmacy.

I returned to industry for one final year before starting my PhD. My role was Senior Applications Scientist and Training Coordinator at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Runcorn, UK. I developed LC-MS applications for pharmaceutical and biomedical industries and was project manager for all training requirements in the department and a primary trainer for a global product launch in India.

In 2012, I commenced a BBSRC funded PhD in Biological Chemistry at the University of Manchester working in the groups of Dr Nick Lockyer and Professor Roy Goodacre. My project entitled ‘Lipidomic and Metabolomic Analysis of Biological Response Mechanisms in Cancer Cells’ employed a multi-dimensional bioanalytical approach utilizing Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS), Raman Spectroscopy, Infrared Spectroscopy and LC-MS to study biological changes in cells as a response to drug treatment. My work primarily focused on understanding the metabolite and lipid changes of acute myeloid leukaemia cells when treated with a novel drug therapy. During this time, I was employed part-time at Manchester Metropolitan University as a student support officer and lead of second year analytical labs.

Following my PhD I worked as a Cancer Research UK funded Post-Doc at the Wolfson Molecular Imaging Centre in Manchester. My research aimed to identify and characterise pre-clinical and clinical tumours using mass spectrometry imaging modalities to provide biomolecular profiles for tumour regions in tissue sections. I primarily worked with DESI, REIMS (Waters UK) and MALDI (Kratos), to understand the response of cells and tissue to hypoxia and drug treatment.

I took up my current position as a Lecturer in Pharmacology at the University of Salford in December 2016.


My teaching contributes to several programmes at Undergraduate level, including Biochemistry, Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biomedical Sciences BScs. Modules include: Introductory Biochemistry, Chemical Structure Determination, Pharmacology and Advanced Pharmacology. At MSc level I teach in Drug Discovery and Development and Drug Pharmacology modules.

I am actively working on the design of new modules in the area of analytical chemistry.

Research Interests

My research in the bioanalytical field is multidisciplinary and broadly covers pharmaceutical and biomedical applications employing powerful analytical techniques of mass spectrometry (LC-MS, GC-MS, SIMS, MALDI and DESI) and spectroscopy (FTIR, ATR, Synchrotron-FTIR and Raman microspectroscopy) to probe changes induced in cells as a result of abiotic stress. One key angle is to investigate the mechanistic action of novel drug therapies at a single cell level. I am also interested in studying biochemical changes as a result of drug resistance, hypoxia and toxicity in both cells and tissue.

Characterising changes in the lipidome and metabolome of mammalian cells as a consequence of pharmacological induced stress affords new insight into biochemical processes associated with disease progression and the treatment thereof. Many diseases are linked with abnormal lipid metabolism. The chemical profiling of diseased and stressed biological systems through lipidomics and metabolomics is a powerful approach to understanding and ultimately controlling biological function.

Through access to Synchrotron beam time in Australia and the UK, I have been able to study changes in living cells when treated with drug compounds and deduce information regarding drug uptake and mode of action.

Clinical translation is a key aspect of my research and as a member of the Raman4Clinics network and the Clinical Infrared and Raman Spectroscopy for diagnosis network (CLIRSPEC), I work collaboratively with partners in academia and industry to facilitate progress in this field.

I have maintained strong industrial links over the years and enjoy working in partnership with industry collaborators where possible.

Qualifications and Memberships

M.Chem Analytical Chemistry with Professional Practice, University of Salford, 2005

PhD in Biological Chemistry, University of Manchester, 2016

Chair of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy UK branch

Member of the British Association for Cancer Research

Member of The Royal Society of Chemistry (MRSC)

Member of the Metabolomics Society

Member of the British Mass Spectrometry Society

Member of the Infrared and Raman Discussion Group

Honorary Researcher, The University of Manchester


Denbigh, J.L. & Lockyer N.P. 2015. ToF-SIMS as a tool for profiling lipids in cancer and other diseases. Materials Science and Technology, 31, 137-147.

Denbigh, J. L., Perez-Guaita, D., Vernooij, R., Tobin, M., Bambery, K., Xu, Y., Southam, A., Khanim, F., Drayson, M., Lockyer, N., Goodacre, R., and Wood, B. 2016. Probing the action of a novel anti-leukaemic drug therapy at the single cell level using modern vibrational spectroscopy techniques, Nature Scientific Reports, accepted February 2017

Denbigh, J.L. et al. 2017. Metabolomics analysis of acute myeloid leukaemia cells treated with a novel combination drug therapy reveals reduction of pyrimidine synthesis intermediates, in preparation for submission to Molecular BioSystems.

Henderson, F., Jones, E., Denbigh, J. et al. 2017. 3D-DESI MS lipid imaging of a xenograft glioblastoma, in preparation.

Denbigh, Joanna, Thermo Fisher Scientific Bioanalytical/Pharmacological Technical Application Note 2011: “Capecitabine in Human Plasma Using SOLA and Accucore* Core Enhanced Technology HPLC Column”.

Jones, Joanne and Denbigh, Joanna, Thermo Fisher Scientific Bioanalytical/Pharmacological Technical Application Note 2011: “Determination of Beta Blockers from Urine Using SOLA CX and Accucore* Core Enhanced Technology HPLC”.