Frances Balkwill was born in 1952 and spent her childhood in south-west London. Years later, she obtained a BSc in Cellular Pathology at the University of Bristol and a PhD on leukaemia cell biology at the Medical Oncology Department, at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. From her PhD onwards, Professor Balkwill joined the battle against cancer with a great goal: to make a real difference for cancer patients. During her postdoctoral research, which was carried out in Joyce Taylor-Papadimitriou’s laboratory at ICRF Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Professor Balkwill began to study the therapeutic potential of interferons and other cytokines. Since 2000, Professor Balkwill is the Professor of Cancer Biology at Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, where she leads the Centre for Cancer and Inflammation and the Cytokine and Cancer group within that centre. Throughout her career, Professor Balkwill has been interested in the links between cancer and inflammation and in researching ways of translating this connection to clinical trials.
In 2006, Professor Balkwill was made a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, being elected a member of its Council. She was awarded an OBE in the 2008 Queen’s Birthday Honours list and an Honorary Fellowship of the British Science Association, one year later. Professor Balkwill is currently a non-parliamentary board member of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, POST and Chair of Understanding Animal Research (UAR). She is a frequent plenary and keynote speaker at international meetings, such as Gordon and Keystone conferences and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). She is also on the Scientific Advisory Committee of Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
In addition to carrying out laboratory research, Professor Balkwill is also actively involved in communication of science to non-specialist audiences, especially young people, and has written about thirteen science books for children, with titles such as “Enjoy Your Cells” and “The Egg and Sperm Race”. Interestingly, she is a Director of The Centre of the Cell, a project to build a science centre for children, as an educational website, and therefore widening participation and outreaching this project in Whitechapel. The website was launched on March 2007 and the physical centre opened on September 2009.