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Professor P Nigel Leigh

Prof Nigel Leigh

Professor P Nigel Leigh (BSc, MB, BS, PhD, FRCP, FAAN, FMedSci)

Professor of Neurology
T: +44 (0)1273 877357
Location: Trafford Centre for Medical Research, Room 205, BSMS, University of Sussex, BN1 9RY

DA: Pat Butler

T: +44 (0)1273 876768

Other roles: Professor Emeritus, Kings College London
Areas of expertise: Motor neurone disorders; neurodegenerative disorders
Research areas: Clinical neuroscience/neurology


Qualifying at the London Hospital Medical College in 1970, Professor Nigel Leigh undertook a PhD with Professor David Marsden FRS. He was appointed to the University Chair of Neurology at the Institute of Psychiatry (now King’s College London) in 1989 where he established a research programme in Motor Neurone Disease (MND; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS) to understand the causes, consequences, and treatment of MND. The King’s MND Care and Research Centre was the first centre in the UK funded by the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) and became a model for multi-disciplinary care worldwide.

Nigel established a DNA bank for MND linked to an extensive clinical database; developed a programme of functional and structural imaging; contributed to the development of riluzole, the only disease-modifying treatment in MND; and led the NNIPPS (Neuroprotection and Natural History in Parkinson Plus Syndromes) study, a randomized clinical trial and prospective cohort analysis of nearly 800 patients with ‘Parkinson Plus’ syndromes. He led the LiCALS trial and has contributed to the design and supervision of many Industry-led trials. With Professor Irene Higginson OBE FMedSci (Cecily Saunders Institute, King’s College London) he developed a research programme in palliative care in neurology.

Nigel won The Forbes Norris Award of the International Alliance of MND/ALS Associations (1998), the Erb-Duchenne Prize of the German Neuromuscular Society (2003); the Sheila Essey Award for ALS Research (American Academy of Neurology, 2004); and was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (2003). He remains Emeritus Professor at King’s College London.


Over the past 25 years Nigel’s research has focussed on the causative mechanisms, clinical manifestations, management and treatment of motor neurone disease (MND; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS) and other neurodegenerative diseases, particularly the ‘Parkinson Plus’ syndromes Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) and Multiple System Atrophy (MSA).  This strategy continues at BSMS, starting with collaborations on epigenetic factors in MND (Dr. Majid Hafezparast, Prof. Sarah Newbury, Prof. Martin Turner, Oxford University), molecular imaging (Prof. Mara Cercignani; collaborations with Professor Anil Seth of the Sackler Centre at Sussex University; with Professor Daniel Alexander and Dr Gary Zhang, University College London, and with Professors Ammar Al-Chalabi and Laura Goldstein, King’s College London).

Nigel continues to play a leading role in the design and execution of Pharma-led clinical trials. He is Chief Investigator and Co-Coordinator of the European Union H2020-funded ‘MIROCALS’ (Modifying Immune Response and Outcomes in ALS) project (2015-2019) involving 11 partners in Italy, Sweden, France, and UK. This is a randomized placebo-controlled trial of low dose interleukin-2 (IL-2) in MND/ALS, integrating clinical outcomes with biomarker validation and discovery. Nigel has recently been funded by the MNDA to establish the Sussex MND Care and Research Network, its 20th Care Centre in the UK. His is one of seven UK Centres funded by the PSP Association to establish a PSP research cohort.


Nigel’s role is that of senior research Professor and as such he contributes actively to postgraduate training and mentoring of research fellows and junior colleagues.

Selected publications

Tsermentseli S, Leigh P, Taylor L, Radunovic A, Catani M, Goldstein L. Syntactic processing as a marker for cognitive impairment in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Frontotemporal Degeneration. 2015;17(1-2):69-76. 

Balendra R, Jones A, Jivraj N, Steen I, Young C, Shaw PJ, Turner MR, Leigh PN, Al-Chalabi A; UK-MND LiCALS Study Group, Mito Target ALS Study Group. Use of clinical staging in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for phase 3 clinical trials. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. 2015;86(1):45-49.

Al-Chalabi A, Calvo A, Chio A, Colville S, Ellis C, Hardiman O et al. Analysis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as a multistep process: a population-based modelling study. The Lancet Neurology. 2014;13(11):1108-1113.

Diekstra F, Van Deerlin V, van Swieten J, Al-Chalabi A, Ludolph A, Weishaupt J et al. C9orf72 and UNC13A are shared risk loci for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia: A genome-wide meta-analysis. Annals of Neurology. 2014;76(1):120-133.

Al-Chalabi A, Kwak S, Mehler M, Rouleau G, Siddique T, Strong M et al. Genetic and epigenetic studies of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Frontotemporal Degeneration. 2013;14(S1):44-52.

Jones A, Woollacott I, Shatunov A, Cooper-Knock J, Buchman V, Sproviero W et al. Residual association at C9orf72 suggests an alternative amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-causing hexanucleotide repeat. Neurobiology of Aging. 2013;34(9):2234.e1-2234.e7.

Morrison K, Dhariwal S, Hornabrook R, Savage L, Burn D, Khoo T et al. Lithium in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (LiCALS): a phase 3 multicentre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet Neurol. 2013 Apr;12(4):339-45.