Professor Michael J Cork BSc MB PhD FRCP

Professor of Dermatology

Picture of Professor Cork

Academic Unit of Dermatology Research
Department of Infection and Immunity
The University of Sheffield Medical School
Beech Hill Road
S10 2RX

Administrator - Mr Les Hunter
Tel: +44 (0)114 271 2933
Secretary - Mrs Sue Clary
Tel: +44 (0)114 226 8961


I joined the University of Sheffield in 1991 as a lecturer in dermatology whilst continuing as a practising dermatologist for the NHS in Sheffield. I had previously been a Registrar in Dermatology at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, and before that a Registrar in Respiratory General Medicine at Leeds General Infirmary.

I have been closely involved with research in many areas of dermatology; including Atopic Eczema(dermatitis), Psoriasis, Vitiligo and the Genetics of Skin Disease. My major current research work is aimed at identifying gene–environment interactions in the development of atopic dermatitis leading to skin barrier breakdown and the understanding of how topical agents interact with the skin barrier; using this information to enhance the treatment of atopic dermatitis.

I am currently Head of Academic Dermatology Research in the Department of Infection & Immunity at The University of Sheffield Medical School and am Honorary Consultant Dermatologist to both Sheffield Children´s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and to Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; my time is evenly split between the University and the NHS.

Research Interests

My research interests are inflammatory skin disorders including: atopic dermatitis (atopic eczema), psoriasis, alopecia areata and vitiligo. The group which includes both clinical and non-clinical staff has identified genetic variants associated with all of these diseases.

Internationally, the Academic Unit of Dermatology Research is one of the leading groups translating basic dermatological science into new treatments for the clinic. Examples include `Skin Protease Inhibitors´ and `Vitamin A Metabolic Pathway Inhibitors´. In 2001, with help from The Wellcome Trust, the group formed a `spin-out´ company called `Molecular SkinCare´, with the aim of developing these treatments.

Another major focus of the group is the effect of topical pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and oils on the structure and function of the skin barrier. Research in this area comprises investigation of the skin barrier defect associated with skin disorders such as atopic dermatitis, how skin barrier defects develop and how to treat or repair the skin barrier defect. This includes the determination of the effect of topical agents/products on the skin of volunteers visiting our clinical diagnostic `skin laboratory´, where we can measure specific properties of the skin barrier, non-invasively, using an array of specialised equipment. These results are then correlated with variants in the genes that determine the structure and function of the skin barrier.

Research conducted by the AuDR is at the interface between the clinic, academia and industry. Work has been funded by charities, including: The Wellcome Trust, British Skin Foundation and Psoriasis Association; also by the Kuwait Ministry of Health; and by pharmaceutical/cosmetics companies; including Astellas, Johnson & Johnson and Stiefel-GSK.

Teaching Interests

My teaching interests within The University include medical undergraduate lecturing and in-clinic training plus postgraduate researcher training and mentoring. I also lecture to related courses at other universities, such as the MSc in Dermatology at Cardiff and at major international and national conferences in the field of dermatology. In addition I undertake a large number of atopic eczema related educational presentations at local, national and international level to a wide range of audiences including; pharmacists, general practitioners, hospital nurses, community nurses, midwives, paediatricians, practice nurses and patient support charities (e.g. National Eczema Society, Skin Care Campaign and Psoriasis Association).

Education of Children with Skin Diseases
I have developed a special interest in `translating´ the complex pathophysiology of skin disease into cartoons and language that can be understood by a child of six. I presented these to the National Eczema Society and the Skin Care Campaign. I have written papers for these charities describing the content of the lectures, for example Cork et al 2000; 2002 "Skin Wars". I use the cartoons in my clinics to teach children and their parent about skin diseases. The medical students that sit-in during my clinics, suggested I incorporated the "Skin Wars" cartoons into their lectures because they made dermatology exciting. The "Skin Wars" cartoons have been disseminated to many other dermatology departments. I have assigned all commercial profits from use of the "Skin Wars" cartoons to the National Eczema Society. The "Skin Wars" teaching approach was cited as being an innovative approach to education by the judges in the Hospital Doctor Dermatology Team of the Year Awards, which our paediatric dermatology team won in 2001. This teaching method was also highlighted in the National Eczema Society Health Care Professionals Award 2004.

Professional Activities

  • Member of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) clinical guideline development group for the treatment of Atopic Eczema in children.
  • Advisor, Lecturer and developer of educational materials for the National Eczema Society, Skin Care Campaign, Psoriasis Association and Allergy UK.
  • Wellcome Trust Translational Grants Reviewer & Expert Panel member.
  • Grant Reviewer, British Skin Foundation, Psoriasis Association and Wellcome Trust.
  • Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, London and Edinburgh.
  • Member of British Association of Dermatologists.
  • Member of European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology.
  • Member of British Society for Investigative Dermatology.
  • Member of European Society for Dermatological Research.
  • Member of British Society for Paediatric Dermatology.
  • Member of Dowling Dermatology Society.
  • Professional Member of the National Eczema Society.
  • Member of The Council (board) of the Psoriasis Association.
  • South Yorkshire Biotech Enterprise Network (SYBEN): York Pharma – Biotech company of the year, 2006.
  • Yorkshire Forward Bioscience Yorkshire Annual Awards: Molecular Skin Care: Recognised for Outstanding Achievements in Bioscience. Awarded to the company who has made the greatest advances in Yorkshire in 2005.
  • Leader of the team awarded ‘Health Care Professional Team of the Year’ by the National Eczema Society in 2004.
  • Leader of the team awarded ‘Hospital Doctor Dermatology Team of the Year’ 2001.


For Key Publications see below.  For a full list of publications click here.

Journal articles


  • Cork MJ, Danby SG, Vasilopoulos Y, Hadgraft J, Lane M, Moustafa M, Guy R, MacGowan A, Tazi-Ahnini R & Ward SJ (2009) Epidermal Barrier Dysfunction in Atopic Dermatitis In Rawlings L (Ed.), Skin Moisturization USA: Informa Healthcare USA Inc..


  • Danby S, Brown K, Higgs-Bayliss T, Chittock J & Cork M (2014) The effect of a complex emollient cream containing 5% urea, ceramide 3 and lactic acid, compared with a simple emollient, on the skin barrier in older people with dry skin. BRITISH JOURNAL OF DERMATOLOGY, Vol. 171 (pp 57-58)