She was born in south-west London and was educated at Surbiton High School. She obtained a BSc in Cellular Pathology at the University of Bristol and a PhD on leukaemia cell biology in the Medical Oncology Department at St Bartholomew's Hospital under the late Gordon Hamilton-Fairley.
She worked for several years at the ICRF Lincoln's Inn Fields (now Cancer Research UK London Research Institute) on the effect of interferon on cancer. In 2000 she moved to Queen Mary Hospital, University of London, where she is Professor of Cancer Biology and Director of the Centre for Translational Oncology in the Cancer Research UK Clinical Cancer Centre.
In addition to her laboratory research, Fran has written many children's books about science and is Director of Centre of the Cell, a science education centre for children in the new Barts and The London Medical School building in Whitechapel, east London. She was awarded the Michael Faraday Prize in 2005 "for her outstanding work in communicating the concepts, facts and fascination of science in a way that appeals to children of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities, while at the same time maintaining a distinguished research career".
- Watt, Fiona; Watt, F (2005). "Women in Cell Science". Journal of Cell Science (The Company of Biologists) 118 (Pt 7): 1339–40. doi:10.1242/jcs.01688. PMID 15788651. Retrieved 05-04-2009.
- Balkwill, F; Watt, F (2005). "Fran Balkwill". Journal of Cell Science 118 (Pt 7): 1339–40. doi:10.1242/jcs.01688. PMID 15788651. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
- Fleming, Nic (31 January 2006). "Laws of attraction in action". England: The Telegraph.
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