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Dr Stephen Yarwood is an Associate Professor in the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering (IB3) at Heriot-Watt University (HWU). He obtained his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Glasgow in 1998. His research interests have been aimed at elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying inflammatory disease states, like atherosclerosis, which are normally associated with diet-induced obesity and aging. In particular, his research has focused on understanding the mechanisms regulating cAMP signal transduction, particularly the EPAC1/Rap1 signalling system in the control of vascular inflammation, and has a proven record of accomplishment in defining the mechanisms of EPAC1 signalling (H-index 30, >£2M RCUK/British Heart Foundation (BHF) funding).

Research interests

Age-associated illnesses, eg cancers, cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, neurological diseases (including Alzheimer's), diabetes, sarcopenia and autoimmune diseases, exhibit deregulation of multiple cell signalling pathways that have been linked to a sustained low-grade pro-inflammatory state. This is due to defective termination/resolution mechanisms, leading to increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the circulation, including IL-6 which leads to chronic inflammation. For example, cancers of immune and epithelial cells have a significant inflammatory component that drives proliferation, survival and pathogenic angiogenesis. These chronic diseases are the cause of 63% of all deaths worldwide and have an incidence that increases with age; consequently they account for around 70% of all healthcare spending.

We therefore need to understand fully the chronic inflammatory mechanisms associated with age if we are to maintain lifelong health and well-being in developed and developing societies. There is therefore an urgent need to identify new drug targets and develop new medicines that can prevent or reduce the chronic inflammation associated with these conditions, with the aim of improving quality of life of affected individuals. Our efforts to develop small molecules to combat age-related disease are a significant step towards this goal.

A chemical called "cyclic AMP", which is widely found in the cells of the body, normally protects the cells lining blood vessels (VECs) against the forms of inflammation associated with the development of heart disease. Current anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals that globally elevate cyclic AMP levels (e.g. roflumilast for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) have undesirable side effects (eg vomiting and diarrhoea) that could be minimised by more targeted drugs that selectively and specifically activate cyclic AMP's anti-inflammatory mechanisms.

Central to the protective actions of cyclic AMP is an enzyme, EPAC1, which suppresses multiple inflammatory signalling pathways in VECs, through selective changes in gene activity. We have discovered drug-like molecules (NCN EPAC1 agonists) that activate EPAC1 in VECs and inhibit the inflammation caused by IL-6. Our aims are to determine the mechanisms of actions of NCN EPAC1 agonists, which is part of our long-term goal of transferring a detailed molecular understanding of processes that protect against chronic inflammation into new therapeutic strategies. 

External positions

University of Glasgow


Fellow, University of Toronto


University of Glasgow


Hannah Research Institute


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Research Output

Mechanism of Action of an EPAC1-Selective Competitive Partial Agonist

Shao, H., Mohamed, H., Boulton, S., Huang, J., Wang, P., Chen, H., Zhou, J., Luchowska-Stańska, U., Jentsch, N. G., Armstrong, A. L., Magolan, J., Yarwood, S. & Melacini, G., 14 May 2020, In : Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 63, 9, p. 4762-4775 14 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • 2 Citations (Scopus)

    Special Issue on "New Advances in Cyclic AMP Signalling"-An Editorial Overview

    Yarwood, S. J., 12 Oct 2020, In : Cells. 9, 10, 2274.

    Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial

    Open Access
  • Synthesis and Biochemical Evaluation of Noncyclic Nucleotide Exchange Proteins Directly Activated by cAMP 1 (EPAC1) Regulators

    Wang, P., Luchowska-Stańska, U., Van Basten, B., Chen, H., Liu, Z., Wiejak, J., Whelan, P., Morgan, D., Lochhead, E., Barker, G., Rehmann, H., Yarwood, S. J. & Zhou, J., 28 May 2020, In : Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 63, 10, p. 5159–5184 26 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Genome-Wide Mapping Defines a Role for C/EBPβ and c-Jun in Non-Canonical Cyclic AMP Signalling

    Wiejak, J., van Basten, B., Hamilton, G. & Yarwood, S. J., 14 Oct 2019, In : Cells. 8, 10, 1253.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 6 Downloads (Pure)

    Identification of A Novel Class of Benzofuran Oxoacetic Acid-Derived Ligands that Selectively Activate Cellular EPAC1

    Beck, E. M., Parnell, E., Cowley, A., Porter, A., Gillespie, J., Robinson, J., Robinson, L., Pannifer, A. D., Hamon, V., Jones, P., Morrison, A., McElroy, S., Timmerman, M., Rutjes, H., Mahajan, P., Wiejak, J., Luchowska-Stańska, U., Morgan, D., Barker, G., Rehmann, H. & 1 others, Yarwood, S. J., 12 Nov 2019, In : Cells. 8, 11, 1425.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 2 Citations (Scopus)
    6 Downloads (Pure)


    Human Frontiers Science Program Fellowship

    Yarwood, Stephen John (Recipient), 1999

    Prize: Fellowship awarded competitively


    Scottish Parliament (External organisation)

    Stephen John Yarwood (Member)

    2020 → …

    Activity: MembershipMembership of committee


    Stephen John Yarwood (Chair)

    6 Oct 20208 Oct 2020

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

    External PhD Examination

    Stephen John Yarwood (Examiner)


    Activity: Examination

    Nanodomains in cyclic nucleotide signalling: from mechanisms to therapeutic approaches

    Stephen John Yarwood (Organiser)


    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

    Editor of Special Edition of Cells (New Advances in Cyclic AMP Signaling) (Event)

    Stephen John Yarwood (Editorial board member)


    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditorial activity

    Press / Media

    Press Releases on Flavanoid Research

    Stephen Yarwood


    9 items of Media coverage

    Press/Media: Research