Professor Gary Williamson

Profile

Professor and Chair at the University of Leeds, UK. Published ~360 peer-reviewed full scientific papers; Thomson Reuters ISI highly cited author (top 1% globally) in Agricultural Sciences (h-index of 76, Web of Science. Google Scholar h-index 100)).

Holder of a prestigious 5-year European Research Council Advanced Grant “What is the mechanism of the true chronic effect of dietary polyphenols?” (322467 “POLYTRUE?”), the only one awarded in food and nutrition, with current and past research funding from BBSRC (UK research council), EU Framework projects, industry, government agencies and international fellowship awards including Marie Curie.

Experience of international research in academic, institute and industrial environments, and in managing, supervising and running large multidisciplinary international research teams and projects, dealing with broader scientific, organizational and management aspects through to technical details. Wide range of scientific experience including ~190 invited research seminars at international scientific conferences and research centers/universities, and supervision of 46 previous and current PhD students, many of whom now hold senior positions. Involved in more than 30 human intervention studies. Large network of food-related contacts from all environments, and has worked with and published with hundreds of collaborators worldwide. PhD examiner internationally and on scientific advisory panels to e.g. BBSRC.

Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Editor-in Chief of a Royal Society of Chemistry journal, Food and Function, for 4 years from launch. Organiser and Chairman of 4th International Conference on Polyphenols and Health, December 2009 and opening keynote speaker for the 5th and 7th meetings. Invited assessor/panel member (LS9) for European Research Council Advanced Grants, committee assessor for BBSRC grants and assessment panel member for several University Departments. Chairman of Faculty Ethics Committee from Sept 2011 for 5 yr. Scientific Advisory Board/consultant for several companies.

Extensive knowledge and experience of the issues surrounding all aspects of food and nutrition, involving basic, scientific and industrial and research. Accomplished teacher including lectures and project supervision, with a high appreciation from student feedback. Substantial media experience including TV and radio.

Co-ordinator of large multinational projects on phytochemicals and health, and Director of a Europe-wide training programme for PhD students in phytochemicals whilst at Institute of Food Research, UK. Responsible for large research teams at the Nestlé Research Center, Switzerland, between 2002 and 2007, mainly on nutrient bioavailability, with commercial, scientific and management responsibilities.

Research interests

  1. Understanding aspects of absorption and metabolism of dietary polyphenols, and how the metabolism influences biological effects.
  2. Understanding how polyphenols can affect cellular responses, signalling and gene expression, important for reducing the risk and incidence of diabetes.
  3. Promoting the use of physiologically relevant conditions and exploiting complex cellular systems to understand molecular mechanisms of action of polyphenols

Over the last few years, based on evidence from my studies and others, I have become particularly interested in the link between dietary components (especially polyphenols) and carbohydrate/energy metabolism. To this end, we have shown that certain polyphenols inhibit sugar transporters in the gut and can modulate the appearance of glucose in the blood in volunteers, an important risk factor in diabetes . This forms a focus of my group today and started with a paper at Nestlé on inhibiton of a-amylase using in silico modeling, and we have improved the method and protocols as reported in several publications. Through the ERC advanced grant, we are looking at mechanisms of actions using simple and more complex cell models, and are complementing these findings with human intervention stuides in other projects. Fructose leads to elevated uric acid, a risk factor for gout, hypertension and metabolic syndrome, and quercetin supplementation attenuates plasma uric acid both by inhibiton of xanthine oxidase and of fructose transport.  We have also recently published data and reviews to show the effects of other nutrients, especially derived from the gut microbiota, to affect polyphenol absorption and action  and have collaborated with epidemiologists, psychologists, vascular biologists and skin clinicians to further advance our knowledge on the action of polyphenols on human health.

ISI ResearcherID: C-9684-2010 (http://www.researcherid.com/rid/C-9684-2010)

Qualifications

  • PhD
  • FRSC

Professional memberships

  • American Society for Nutrition
  • Royal Society of Chemistry

Student education

I lead and teach the Biotechnology module to final year and Master's students.

I coordinate, supervise and run the module on Master's research projects.

Research groups and institutes

  • Food Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Obesity, Cancer and Metabolic Disease
  • Human Nutrition and Lifestyle Intervention