Professor Andrew Furley

andy.jpgProfessor of Developmental Neuroscience
Department of Biomedical Science
The University of Sheffield
Western Bank
Sheffield S10 2TN
United Kingdom

Room: D18a Firth Court
Telephone: +44 (0) 114 222 2354

CMIAD Cell Biology and Cancer
Bateson Centre  Developmental Biology
Patterning & Morphogenesis  Neuroscience


Brief career history

  • 2018: Professor of Developmental Neuroscience, Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield. Head of Research Training Faculty of Science
  • 2004-2018: Senior Lecturer, Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield. Head of Research Training, Faculty of Science
  • 1997-2004: Lecturer (Centre for Developmental & Biomedical Genetics), Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield
  • 1992-1997: MRC Research Scientist, Division of Developmental Neurobiology, NIMR, Mill Hill, London
  • 1990-1992: Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow, Center for Neurobiology & Behavior, Columbia University, New York (Advisor: T. Jessell)
  • 1987-1990: Jane Coffin Childs Post-Doctoral Fellow, Dept of Biochemistry, Columbia University, New York (Advisors:F. Alt/T. Jessell)
  • 1987: PhD Leukaemia Biology, Imperial Cancer Research/UCL, London (Supervisor: M. Greaves)
  • 1982: B.Sc. (Hons) Molecular Biology, University of Edinburgh

Research interests

Our research is focussed on the role L1CAM-like cell adhesion molecules (L1-CNTNs) in neural development and disease (Gennarini et al., 2017Gennarini & Furley., 2017). L1-CNTNs affect neural function at all stages, including the earliest proliferation and differentiation of progenitor and stem cells (Bizzoca et al 2003Ma et al 2008Xenaki et al., 2011Bizzoca et al., 2012Ha et al., 2015), the guidance of axons (Cohen et al 1998Law et al 2008Dang et al 2012), through to firing of action potentials (Poliak et al 2003) and functioning of synapses (Bliss et al 2000). As a result, these molecules are widely implicated in neurological disease and cancers.

Our aim is to understand the cellular mechanisms through which L1-CNTNs affect this wide variety of processes. Our current work is focussed particularly on the role of NrCAM in regulating the Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) pathway in medulloblastoma (Sakurai et al., 2001; Xenaki et al., 2011) and in neural stem cells (Bizzoca et al., 2012), with a specific emphasis on its role in controlling the trafficking of SHH pathway components into and out of primary cilia.

Professional activities

  • British Society for Developmental Biology (BSDB; Committee member (1999-2005); Publications Secretary (2000-2005;
  • MRC Advisory Board (MAB) 2002-2005
  • Appointed adviser on genetics and biotechnology to EU-wide consortium (PRIVILEGED) determining the ethical and legal interests in privacy and data protection for research involving the use of genetic databases and bio-banks, 2007.
  • Chair: BNA Symposium, Edinburgh. April 2015
  • Panel Member: Volkswagen Foundation DiSCUSS-Cancer Stem Cells, Hannover. Oct 2014Full publications list

The Cell Biology of Signal Modulation in Neural Development and Cancer

In biology context is everything. We aim to understand how cellular context alters the responses of cells to intercellular signals, focussing on the role of the L1-contactin ‘adhesion’ molecules (L1-CNTNs) in neural development. We have shown L1-CNTNs to modulate signals as diverse as semaphorins and hedgehogs (HHs) by altering the intracellular trafficking of their receptors during signalling. Our work on L1-CNTN modulation of Sema signalling during the wiring of mouse spinal sensory circuits (1) has converged on our studies showing F3/contactin repression of Sonic HH-stimulated proliferation of cerebellar neuron progenitors (2) to focus on a potential role for NrCAM in the trafficking of SHH signalling pathway components in the primary cilium. We are collaborating with Cadby (Physics) to develop STORM super resolution microscopy to follow this in real time. Collaborations with Clifford (Newcastle) reveal NrCAM to be upregulated in SHH group medulloblastomas and loss of NrCAM in vivo affects the penetrance of neoplasia in the Ptch1  mouse medulloblastoma model.

Roles for NrCAM in hypothalamic stem cell behaviour and for TAG1 in autism and obesity (3) are also being investigated with Placzek (Bateson), Markx (NY) and Buchner (Ohio) respectively, while with Whyte, Walmsley (Edinburgh) and Renshaw (Bateson) we are investigating semaphorins in neutrophil function.

I also have a particular interest in the use of animals in research, which relates to my masters Bioethics teaching (with Townend, Maastricht), and am the Sheffield lead in an FP7 project (ANIMPACT) aimed at evaluating the impact of Directive 2010/63/EU on animal welfare and research competitiveness in member states.

Figure 1

External Collaborators

  • Prof. Steve Clifford, Newcastle
  • Prof. Moira Whyte & Dr Sarah Walmsley, Edinburgh
  • Prof. Gianfrano Gennarini, Bari, Italy
  • Prof. David Townend, Maastricht, Netherlands
  • Dr Sander Markx, Columbia, NY, USA
  • Dr David Buchner, Case Western, Ohio, USA
  • Dr Avihu Klar, Hebrew University, Israel
  • Dr David Beier, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA


  • Brain Tumour Support across Yorkshire
  • FP7

Undergraduate and postgraduate taught modules


  • BMS109-153 Neuroscience
  • BMS243/249 Developmental Neurobiology
  • BMS381 Developmental Neurobiology (Co-ordinator)
  • BMS382 Stem Cell Biology
  • Level 3 Practical and Dissertation Modules

Masters (MSc)

  • BMS6054 - Ethics, the Law and Public Awareness of Science (Co-ordinator)
  • BMS6318 Developmental Neurobiology (Co-ordinator)

Selected publications

Journal articles

Conference proceedings papers