Frances Ashcroft

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Frances Ashcroft
Born Frances Mary Ashcroft
(1952-02-15) 15 February 1952 (age 66)[1]
Nationality British
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Scientific career
Thesis Calcium electrogenesis in insect muscle (1978)

Dame Frances Mary Ashcroft, DBE, FRS, FMedSci (born 1952) is a British ion channel physiologist. She is Royal Society GlaxoSmithKline Research Professor at the University Laboratory of Physiology at the University of Oxford. She is a fellow of Trinity College, Oxford and is a director of the Oxford Centre for Gene Function. Her research group has an international reputation for work on insulin secretion, type II diabetes and neonatal diabetes.[3][4] Her work with Professor Andrew Hattersley has helped enable children born with diabetes to switch from insulin injections to tablet therapy.[5][6]


After attending Talbot Heath School Ashcroft gained a degree in Natural Sciences, and then a PhD in zoology from Cambridge in 1978.[7][8] Ashcroft then did post-doctoral research at the University of Leicester and the University of California at Los Angeles.[9]


Ashcroft is a Director of OXION: Ion Channels and Disease Initiative, a research and training programme on integative ion channel research, funded by the Wellcome Trust.[10]


Ashcroft's research focuses on ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP)channels and their role in insulin secretion. Ashcroft is working towards explaining how a rise in the blood glucose concentration stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreatic beta-cells, what goes wrong with this process in type 2 diabetes, and how drugs used to treat this condition exert their beneficial effects.[11] Ashcroft has authored a few science and popular science books based on ion channel physiology:

  • Ion Channels and Disease: Channelopathies on channelopathic diseases [12]
  • Life at the Extremes: The Science of Survival [13]
  • The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body[14]

Honours and awards[edit]

Ashcroft was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999.[15] In 2007 Ashcroft was awarded the Walter B. Cannon Award, the highest honour bestowed by the American Physiological Society.[16] She was one of five 2012 winners of the L'Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science.[17]

Ashcroft was awarded an honorary degrees of Doctor of the University from the Open University in 2003 and Doctor of Science from the University of Leicester on 13 July 2007.[8]

Ashcroft delivered the Croonian Lecture at the Royal Society in 2013.[18]

In the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours, she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) 'for services to Medical Science and the Public Understanding of Science'.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Ashcroft appeared (as a diner) on MasterChef during the 2011 series,[citation needed] along with several other Fellows of the Royal Society.


  1. ^ ASHCROFT, Prof. Frances Mary. Who's Who. 2014 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. closed access publication – behind paywall (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Frances Ashcroft". The Life Scientific. 2012-05-15. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  3. ^ Ashcroft, F. M.; Harrison, D. E.; Ashcroft, S. J. H. (1984). "Glucose induces closure of single potassium channels in isolated rat pancreatic β-cells". Nature. 312 (5993): 446–448. doi:10.1038/312446a0. PMID 6095103.
  4. ^ Ashcroft, F. M.; Rorsman, P. (1989). "Electrophysiology of the pancreatic β-cell". Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology. 54 (2): 87. doi:10.1016/0079-6107(89)90013-8. PMID 2484976.
  5. ^ Ashcroft, F. M. (1988). "Adenosine 5'-Triphosphate-Sensitive Potassium Channels". Annual Review of Neuroscience. 11: 97–118. doi:10.1146/ PMID 2452599.
  6. ^ Frances Ashcroft talks to ReAgent about career advice for scientists
  7. ^ Ashcroft, Frances Mary (1978). Calcium electrogenesis in insect muscle (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
  8. ^ a b "Oration for Professor Frances Ashcroft by Professor Gordon Campbell. On the occasion of being awarded Doctor of Science summer 2007". University of Leicester. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
  9. ^ "Frances Ashcroft, Professorial Fellow in Physiology". Trinity College, University of Oxford. 2014. Retrieved 2015-04-21.
  10. ^ "Welcome to OXION". OXION: Ion Channels and Disease Initiative, Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, London and MRC Hartwell. Retrieved 2015-04-21.
  11. ^ "Frances Ashcroft — GLAXOSMITHKLINE Royal Society Professor". Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, Medical Sciences Division, University of Oxford. 2015. Retrieved 2015-04-21.
  12. ^ 1999, Academic Press, ISBN 0120653109
  13. ^ 2000, Harper Collins, ISBN 0141046538
  14. ^ 2012, W. W. Norton and Company, ISBN 0006551254
  15. ^ "Lists of Royal Society Fellows 1660–2007". London: The Royal Society. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  16. ^ "Oxford physiology professor earns APS' Walter B. Cannon Award" (Press release). American Physiological Society. 27 April 2007. Retrieved 22 March 2015 – via EurekAlert!.
  17. ^ "Ashcroft receives L'oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science". OxWeb. 8 November 2011. Archived from the original on 8 November 2011. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  18. ^ "Croonian Lecture—List of lecturers: 21st century". Royal Society. Archived from the original on 24 October 2017. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  19. ^ "No. 61256". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 2015. p. B8.