Professor John Williams

Sub Dean for Research, Director of Chester Centre for Stress Research

I graduated in University College of North Wales in Bangor many years ago, before completing a PhD, also at Bangor, on the regulation of carbohydrate metabolism in plants.




Since my PhD I have moved, by a tortuous route through Aberystwyth, Paris and Wrexham, towards very different research projects which are mainly based on stress proteins and understanding how they are regulated and influence disease processes.

I joined Chester in 1998 as Reader in Biology and was Head of Department from 2004-2007. I have been Director of Chester Centre for Stress Research since 2000.

Outside work - I am Welsh speaking and live in a beautiful part of Wales, near Bala. I am married with three children and we have a smallholding, with 30 sheep. I was a keen rugby player, and still follow the game. I am a qualified rugby union coach and coach an Under 16 side at Clwb Rygbi Bala.


I teach on the following modules:

  • BI 5113 Applied Molecular Biology
  • BI 6115  Immunology and Haematology
  • BI 6113 Clinical Medicine and Pharmacology


I lead a laboratory at Chester which has two research assistants and eight PhD students. Funding for the laboratory has come from DEFRA, Food Standards Agency and several medical charities. Total grant income since 2001 has been £376,000.

My research falls into three main areas: stress protein biology, bone cell biology, and food authentication.

Stress protein biology

Much of this work has been looking at the role of heat shock proteins (Hsps) in health and disease, in particular extracellular Hsps. The laboratory is recognised as one of the leaders in this area, being the first to publish that lymphocytes release Hsp70 and more recently that this release can be modified by bacterial antigens and pro-inflammatory cytokines. As a result of this work I have been invited to several international conferences as a featured speaker in the last three years, and have recently given two invited review book chapters.

The expertise of the laboratory has enabled us to lead a number of clinical studies looking at the role of single carbon metabolism on the progression of Alzheimer's disease and type 2 diabetes, in particular the effect of folate supplementation on endothelial function. We have been able to take this to in vitro studies where we have shown that folate directly protects cells from oxidative stress through mechanisms involving Hsp32 and Hsp72.

I am currently leading a clinical trial with leukaemia patients, aimed to examine some novel ideas on the resistance of tumour cells to apoptosis. A proteomic approach is being applied to the study of the extracellular Hsps.

Bone cell biology

Principally focused on the role of the OPG/RANKL system in the regulation of bone turnover. The work is a long-standing collaboration with Dr Mike Marshall (Orthopaedic hospital, Oswestry). We have been looking at factors that influence the production of OPG and how that relates to osteoblast function.

Food authentication

Our expertise with immunoassays have been used in a number of food authentication projects. These have mainly been using the specificity of antibodies to distinguish between products from different species, especially closely related species. We are currently working on a several different hydrocolloids, including gum arabic, xanthan gum and konjac. We have been using the antibodies to develop ELISAs able to quantify species composition and also to provide structural and functional information about these complex molecules.