Professor John Zajicek

Professor John Zajicek

Professor of Clinical Neuroscience


Professor John Zajicek is currently Vice Dean Research and Chair of Clinical Neuroscience with the Plymouth University Peninsula Colleges of Medicine and Dentistry, and Honorary Consultant at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth. He is also Chair of the UK NIHR Nervous System Disorders Speciality Group, Board Member of the MRC Neuroscience and Mental Health Board, Co-Director of an NHS research network and Director of the Peninsula Clinical Trials Unit.

He has a background in cell biology and immunology whilst working in Cambridge, and then moved into more clinical surroundings when he joined the Plymouth team in 1995. His current research team includes both clinical and laboratory scientists comprising around 50 people.

Since moving to Plymouth he has been actively involved in developing neurology services (and co-edited the Handbook of MS Care) and was Chief Investigator in the MRC funded Cannabinoids in MS (CAMS) trial.  He is also Chief Investigator in a number of other clinical trials relating to MS and 9 years ago set up the South-West Impact of MS (SWIMS) project, which is following up 1600 people with MS in Devon and Cornwall.  The SWIMS team intends to provide new information about how MS changes over time; investigate new ways of conducting treatments trials as well as refining prediction of prognosis in MS.

He is very optimistic that clinical research will produce new treatments for MS in the near future, not only for modifying the disease course in RRMS, but also in slowing progression for people with progressive MS and improved treatment of symptoms.

One focus of his group is in the development of new ways of measuring clinical aspects of neurodegenerative diseases.  He is investigating new ways of testing treatments for neurodegenerative conditions and runs a prestigious NIHR programme grant to develop new methods for testing treatments in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.



1981 BA (Jesus College, Cambridge)

1984 MB.BS (St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School, University of London)

1987 MRCP (Royal College of Physicians, UK)

1994 PhD (University of Cambridge)

1994 MA (University of Cambridge)

2000 FRCP (Royal College of Physicians, UK)


Academic Distinctions

1981 First Class, Medical Sciences Tripos (Cambridge)

1981 Exhibitioner, Jesus College, Cambridge

1984 Honours, Pathology Final MB.BS

1992 Sir Charles Symonds Memorial prize Association of British Neurologists

1992 European Neurological Society prize, Lausanne

1993 Sir Charles Symonds Memorial prize Association of British Neurologists

Professional membership

Membership of Learned Societies

1.    Member of the British Society for Immunology

2.    Member of the St. Mary's Hospital Association

3.    Member of the Jesus College Cambridge Association

4.    Member of the Royal College of Physicians (London)

5.    Member of the Association of British Neurologists

6.    Member of the South-West of England Neurological Association

7.    Member of the Plymouth Medical Society

8.    Member of the Torbay Medical Society

Roles on external bodies

Committees – National

1.    Adviser to Wessex Institute in preparation of Development and Evaluation Committee (DEC) reports on MS - related issues including beta-interferon, new drugs in MS and Specialist Nurses.

2.    Member of the Neuroimmunology Affinity Group committee of the British Society for Immunology (1993 – 1998)

3.    Chairman of the UK MS research group (1997–)

4.    Member of steering committee of the beta-interferon trial group (convened by the Health Technology Assessment group) (1997 – 1999)

5.    Member of the Working Party on the Therapeutic Uses of Cannabinoids (convened by the Department of Health and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society) (1998 – 1999)

6.    Member of the Regional Cancer Organisation Brain tumour committee (1999 – 2004)

7.    Member of National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) advisory committee on new treatments in MS (2000)

8.    Association of British Neurologists, MS Panel member (2001 –)

9.    Member of Neurosciences and Mental Health Board (NMHB), Medical Research Council (MRC), (Aug. 2008 –)

10.  NIHR Programme Board Subpanel C: Neuroscience and Mental Health, (Aug. 2008 –)

11.  Member of Brain UK committee (Jun. 2010 –)

12.  Chair of NIHR Nervous System Disorders Specialty Group (Mar. 2012 –)

Committees – Local

1.      Member of the Drugs and Therapeutics Committee, Derriford Hospital. (1998 – 2002)

2.      Member of the Medical Executive Committee, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth. (1998 – 2002; 2003 – 2009)

3.      Chairman of the Peninsula Neurosciences Review (Health Authority commissioned review in Devon & Cornwall), (1999 – 2001)

4.      Member on the Board of Plymouth Institute of Neuroscience. (2000 – 2003)

5.      Member of the Health Services Research Academic Sub-Committee of the Peninsula Medical School. (2001)

6.      Elected member of the Medical Council, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth (2001 – 2002)

7.      Director Peninsula Clinical Trials Unit. (Jun. 2001 – )

8.      Associate Medical Director R&D, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, (Jul. 2003 – Mar. 2010)

9.      Deputy Lead SW DeNDRoN local Research Network. (2006 – 2009)

10.   Chairman Clinical Trials Methodology Special Interest Group DeNDRoN. (2007 – 2009)

11.   Clinical Director Peninsula Comprehensive Research Network. (Job share) (2007 – )

12.   Plymouth Lead for Health Services & Deputy Director, Institute of Health Services Research, (Feb. 2009 –)


Research interests

Specialises in Multiple sclerosis and running multi-centre clinical trials for neurodegenerative diseases.

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

Thesis Supervision

I am currently supervising six students for their PhD theses:  Dr. Richard Hosking (since Oct 2006; Cannabinoid influence on microglial activation); Dr. Adrian Pace (since Oct 2006; Objective quantification of muscle strength in MS); Dr. Vicentiu Apostu (since March 2011; Prediction and prognosis in MS); Louise Barrett (since Oct 2006; Relationship between clinically and statistically significant change); Annemarie Hawton (since Oct 2009; Developing methods available for economic evaluation of treatments for MS); Marie-Louise Zeissler (since Oct 2009; Investigating cannabinoids as neuroprotective agents in PD).
Dr Patrick Fox obtained his MD in 2007 (Cannabinoid use for symptomatic treatment in multiple sclerosis) and Dr Lara Teare was also full time and has submitted her MD thesis (Relationship between cannabinoid levels and clinical effect in multiple sclerosis). Dr Hua Zhang successfully completed her PhD (Jan 2007 – Jan 2011, Cannabinoid receptors and NAPE-PLD in MS). In Cambridge I contributed to the supervision of one student PhD.


Grants & contracts


1.    Co-sponsor for Dr. Irina Vinogradova in a travelling Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust £61,846 (1997 – 1999).

2.    MS Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: Part-time research secretary. £6,000 p.a. (1998 – 2000).

3.    MRC clinical trial grant: Cannabinoids for spasticity in MS (CAMS), Principal Investigator. £1,132,000 (Apr. 2000 – 2003).

4.    Peninsula Medical School Foundation: South-West Impact of MS (SWIMS) £44,157 from (Aug. 2004 – 2014).

5.    MS Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: CAMS-LUTS study of lower urinary tract symptoms during cannabis therapy, in collaboration with Mr. Bob Freeman, Consultant Gynaecologist. £103,854 over 2 years.

6.    Medical Research Council (MRC): Cannabinoid Use in Progressive Inflammatory Disease (CUPID), Chief Investigator for multicentre RCT. (Lead applicant) £2,064,585 (Jul. 2005 – 2011).

7.    Torbay Medical Research Fund: Improving clinical practice and research in multiple sclerosis: development of a longitudinal profile of mobility. (Co-applicant) £38,521.48 (Oct. 2005 – 2009).

8.    South West of England Regional Development Agency: PMS to increase research capability in Plymouth neuroscience and clinical trials. (Co-applicant) £2,183,000 (2005 – 2009).

9.    MS Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: support grant for the CUPID study £300,000 (Apr. 2006 – 2012).

10.  MS Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: support grant for the CUPID study £50,000 (Apr. 2006 – 2008).

11.  Dementia and Neurodegenerative Diseases Local Research Network: South-West bid (co-applicant, deputy lead). £1,570,000 (Jun. 2006 – 2010).

12.  MS Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: South-West Impact of MS study (SWIMS). (Lead applicant) £90,445 (Jan. 2008 – 2009).

13.  National Institute for Health Research: To establish a pilot Collaboration for Leadership in Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) in the South West Peninsula (PenCLAHRC), £10million. (Oct. 2008 – Sep. 2013).

14.  European HD network: Measuring outcomes in Huntingdon’s disease (HD): Comprehensive evaluation of existing rating scale data. £27,586 (2008 – 2009).

15.  NIHR Programme grant: Clinical trial methodology in neurodegenerative diseases. (Lead applicant) £2m grant (Jan. 2009 – 2014).

16.  MS Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: South West Impact of Multiple Sclerosis (SWIMS) Project: a longitudinal study of MS from the patient perspective. (Lead applicant) £369,375 (Jan. 2009 – 2013).

17.  Comprehensive Local Research Network: South West Impact of Multiple Sclerosis (SWIMS) Project: a longitudinal study of MS. £34,608. (Jan. 2009 – Aug. 2009).

18.  MS Society: Establishing clinical guidance for stretching in people with multiple sclerosis. (co-applicant ) £100,508. (Apr. 2009 – May 2011).

19.  MS Society: Evidence-based rating scale selection for clinical trials of neuro-degeneration in MS. (co-applicant) £64,056. (Oct. 09 – Sep.10).

20.  Universitaetsklinikum (ULM) Seed Fund: Measuring outcomes in Huntingdon’s disease (HD): Comprehensive evaluation of existing rating scale data. (co-applicant) £27,586 (Apr. 2010 – 2010).

21.  Foundation for the National Institute of Health: The ADAS-cog PLUS: A new approach to maximizing cognitive performance measurement in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) (Co-applicant). £213400.50 (US$339,000) (Jun. 2010 – 2011).

22.  The Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) programme grant: Cannabinoid Use in Progressive Inflammatory Disease (CUPID), Chief Investigator for multicentre RCT. (Lead applicant) £238,336 (Jul. 2011 – Feb. 2012).

Research grants under review

National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme: UK RElapsing remitting Multiple sclerosis Immunotherapy Trial (REMIT) (Lead applicant) £ 3,650,472 (Apr. 2013 – Apr. 2020).

NHS Health Technology Assessment Programme: A short duration double-blind randomised controlled trial of low versus high dose vitamin D in patients presenting with a Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CISAVID). (Lead applicant) £1,500,000 (Oct. 2012 - ).

The Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) programme grant: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of the cannabis-based extract nabiximols (Sativex®) for the treatment of pain in Parkinson's disease (Co-applicant) £2,032,018 (May 2013 – Jul. 2017).