Elizabeth Bradbury attained her PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, where her research was focused on brain repair and neural transplantation. She then moved to the Department of Physiology at St Thomas’ Hospital for her Post-Doctoral research, where she began studying strategies to promote repair following spinal cord injury in the labs of Steve McMahon and John Priestley. This research focused on neurotrophic factors (proteins responsible for the growth and survival of neurons) as a therapeutic strategy for promoting neuroprotection (protection of nerve cells from degeneration and death) and axonal regeneration following spinal cord injury. She then began focusing on inhibitory factors in the extracellular matrix, called proteoglycans, which prevent nerve regeneration after spinal cord injury.
Bradbury’s expertise in testing therapeutic efficacy, and assessing functional plasticity and repair in clinically relevant models of spinal cord injury has led to the development of promising experimental therapies that are being considered for translation towards the clinic. For example, Bradbury’s work led to the discovery that in vivo treatment with an enzyme called chondroitinase (which degrades proteoglycans) could enable nerve fibres to regenerate through scar tissue, form new connections with target cells and, most importantly, could restore some function to paralysed limbs following experimental spinal cord injury. This work, performed in collaboration with James Fawcett and Stephen McMahon, was published in the journal Nature in 2002 (Nature, 2002, 416:636-40: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11948352 ; now cited over 1400 times: GoogleScholar). This paper has had a major impact in the field of spinal cord injury research, and subsequently there have been multiple independent demonstrations of chondroitinase efficacy by different laboratories worldwide, in different injury models, CNS systems and in multiple species. Consequently, chondroitinase therapy and other matrix modifying strategies has become a leading candidate for clinical trials. Bradbury is a member of the CHASE-IT consortium (chondroitinase for injury therapy), which brings together a group of scientists with molecular biology and viral vector expertise, plus Bradbury’s expertise in translational spinal injury models with the aim of engineering and testing a mammalian chondroitinase vector that is regulatable and safe for human use.
Bradbury has have received grant funding from several spinal injury charities (the International Spinal Research Trust, the International Foundation for Research in Paraplegia, Wings for Life and the Morton Cure Paralysis Fund) as well as prestigious Fellowship awards. She was awarded a Career Development Award in 2003 from the U.K. Medical Research Council (MRC) to make the transition from Post-Doctoral Scientist to Group Leader, establishing herself as an independent PI within the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases at King’s College London. During Bradbury’s CDA she had two career breaks (both for maternity leave) and worked on a part time basis from 2004-2011, but remained prominent and competitive in the field and maintained her research output during this time. She was awarded the Schellenberg Prize for Research in 2008 by the International Foundation for Research in Paraplegia for advances to the field of spinal cord injury and potential future impact for patients. In 2011 she was awarded a Senior Non-Clinical Fellowship by the MRC to fund a five year programme of research to develop novel therapies aimed at maximising the function of spared spinal axons and improving spinal conduction following spinal cord injury. In 2012 she was appointed to the Editorial Board of the international journal Experimental Neurology (Regeneration and Plasticity Section). In 2014 she was appointed to the Scientific Council for the International Foundation for Research in Paraplegia (IrP) and to the Scientific Advisory Board and Board of Directors for the International Symposium on Neural Regeneration (ISNR).