Professor Jeremy Turnbull obtained a BSc in Biochemistry (University of Wales) and a Ph.D. in Glycobiology at Manchester University in 1990 working with Professor John Gallagher on mapping and sequencing the structure of heparan sulfate polysaccharides. He then continued his studies with Prof. Gallagher as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, working on heparan sulfate-protein interactions (especially fibroblast growth factors) and the development of saccharide sequencing techniques. In 1996 he was awarded a prestigious Senior Research Fellowship by the Medical Research Council and started his own lab at Birmingham University. His Fellowship was renewed in 2001 and in 2003 Dr Turnbull moved to Liverpool University to take up a professorial appointment, and ultimately the Johnston Chair of Biochemistry (2009-2021).

His research has focussed on the structure-function relationships of heparan sulfate polysaccharides in biological processes and disease. His lab has also developed innovative chemical biology and “glycomics” strategies for studying heparan sulfate structure-function including sequencing techniques, semi-synthetic and synthetic saccharide libraries and saccharide microarrays. This has led to the development and early stage translation of next-generation heparin and heparin-mimetic drugs. Most recently he has been active in research on the co-receptor role of HS for SARS-CoV2, and development of a number of heparin and HS mimetics for treatment of Covid-19. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (in 2012) and Fellow of the Royal Society for Biology (in 2011). Jeremy also has a part-time appointment as Professor of Proteoglycans and Extracellular Matrix at the Copenhagen Center for Glycomics, University of Copenhagen; is an adjunct Professor at the Ferrier Insitute, Wellington University in New Zealand; and a Visiting Professor at Imperial College (Centre for Glycobiology).

He has an h-factor of 55 from 153 scientific publications, with over 11,500 citations, and has held >£19m in research funds over his career (~£10.8m as PI). He has been an invited speaker at >100 conferences and has organised many international conferences, including 3 Gordon Research Conferences as peer-elected Chair. He has also founded IntelliHep as a University of Liverpool spin-out, exploiting patents on novel “engineered” heparins for discovery of new drugs and in biotechnology applications. Current targets include compounds with potential for disease modifying actions in the treatment of Alzheimers’ disease, cancer and spinal injury, and for stem cell regulation.

Research and scholarship

Research interests cover the molecular glycobiology of heparan sulphates (a specialized class of multi-functional glycans (complex sugars) in health and disease, including drug discovery. Major topics of interest include the structure-activity relationships of these complex glycans; development of analytical and glycomics approaches for systems level investigation of HS glycans; their functional roles in complex biological systems; applications in stem cell biology and in drug discovery for cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and spinal cord injury. Recently he has also been focussed on targeting the SARS2 virus via its essential interactions with cell surface HS, with development of novel compounds for COVID19.


Collaborations and grants awards

  • Grants EU Future & Emerging Technologies: “HS-SEQ”. Heparin and HS: from sequence determination to therapeutic strategies for Parkinsons disease. €3.8m, 4 years.
  • Co-PIs: Turnbull (Copenhagen; €700K), Boons (Utrecht), Arenas (Karolinska), van Kuppevelt (Nijmegen) & Pagel (Berlin). 2020-2024.
  • Alzheimers Society: “Synthetic Heparins as Safe Disease-modifying Drugs for Early-Stage Treatment of AD via Inhibition of Beta-Secretase: Evaluation in a Transgenic Mouse Model”. £260K. PI, Turnbull with CoIs Holscher (Lancaster) and Tyler (Wellington University, NZ). 2016-2022.
  • Kidscan: “Sulfatase Inhibitors for Neuroblastoma”. PI, Turnbull. £10K. (2021-2022)
  • Medical Research Council: Heparin mimetics: novel non-anticoagulant compounds to promote CNS repair, with Prof Barnett, Glasgow. (£495K) 2.5 years. 2020-2023.


  • Senior Adviser, Keele Centre for Glycoscience External activities

External roles:

  • EPSRC Peer Review College Member (2013 - )
  • Biochemical Society, Local Ambassador (2008-2021)
  • Biochemical Society Awards Committee (2009-2021)
  • New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment Science Investment panel (2016 - )

Major conference roles:

  • Chair, 2012 Gordon Conference on Fibroblast Growth Factors
  • Chair, 2016 Gordon Conference on Proteoglycans Editorial Board: Scientific Reports Nature (since 2011);
  • Glycobiology (since 2011); Journal of Biological Chemistry (2005-2010): Matrix Biology (2014-2016);
  • Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (since 2006);
  • BioMedCentral Biochemistry (since 2004)

External collaborations:

UK Prof. Sue Barnett Glasgow University HSPGs in CNS repair Prof Ben Davis University of Oxford Semi-synthetic methods for HS saccharides Prof Barry Potter Oxford University Sulf inhibitors for cancer Prof Lugang Yu Liverpool University Novel anti-metastatic heparins International Prof Peter Tyler Univ. Wellington, NZ Chemical synthesis of HS saccharides Prof Zebo Huang Guangdong University, China: Heparin and related polysaccharides Prof Kan Ding Institute Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai: Chemical Glycobiology of Polysaccharides Prof Jian Liu Univ North Carolina: Chemo-enzymatic saccharide production Prof Mauro Pavao Federal University of Rio, Brazil: Glycosaminoglycans in cancer therapeutics

Commercial engagement:

Co-Founder, IntelliHep Ltd

Consultancies with: Oxford Glycosciences; Farfield Sensors; Sanofi Aventis; Progen Pharma; Momenta Collaborations with: Seikagaku; Chromatide, Stem Cell Sciences; Spheritech; Callaghan Innovation; Chenzhong Biopharma Public engagement: Human Multiple Exostoses society conferences (including meeting affected children and parents) Houston Texas, 2005; Boston 2009; Philadelphia, 2012.

Adviser, UK CJD alliance, 2006 onwards Garston Rotary Club speaker, Liverpool, April 2008. Adviser, Hereditary Multiple Exostoses Support Group UK, 2010 onwards. Hosting public meeting with Alzheimers Research UK, Liverpool University, April, 2012.

Assisting Alzheimers Research UK to promote a commercial sponsorship for a PhD studentship, April 2013. Presentation to Liverpool Soroptimists Club/ARUK, Nov 2014.

School of Life Sciences,
Huxley Building,
Keele University,
Tel: +44 (0) 1782 734414