Fran Balkwill

Fran Balkwill
Born 1952 (age 68–69)
London, England
Occupation Scientist and author
Known for Children's books on scientific topics
Scientific career
Institutions Queen Mary University of London

Frances Rosemary Balkwill OBE (born 1952) is an English scientist, Professor of Cancer Biology at Queen Mary University of London, and author of children's books about scientific topics.

Early life and education

Balkwill was born in south-west London in 1952, and was educated at Surbiton High School. She obtained a BSc in Cellular Pathology at the University of Bristol and a PhD on leukaemia cell biology in the Medical Oncology Department at St Bartholomew's Hospital under the late Gordon Hamilton-Fairley.[1]


She worked for several years at the ICRF Lincoln's Inn Fields (now Cancer Research UK London Research Institute) on the effect of interferon on cancer. In 2000 she moved to Queen Mary, University of London, where she is Professor of Cancer Biology and Director of the Centre for Translational Oncology in the Cancer Research UK Clinical Cancer Centre.[1]

In addition to her laboratory research, Balkwill has written many children's books about science, illustrated by Mic Rolph,[2] and is Director of Centre of the Cell, a science education centre for children in the new Barts and The London Medical School building in Whitechapel, east London.[1] Her books for children cover a range of topics in biology. For her first book on HIV and Aids, Staying Alive: Fighting HIV/AIDS (2002), Balkwill and Rolph travelled to South Africa to carry out research and to determine the educational needs of local communities. 19,000 free copies of the book were distributed throughout South Africa, funded by the publisher Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.[2]

From 2008 to 2011, Balkwill served as Chairman of the Public Engagement Strategy Committee at the Wellcome Trust. In 2016 she was a judge for the Wellcome Book Prize.[3]


In 2008 Balkwill was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE).[3]

Balkwill's books for children Cells are Us and Cell Wars won the Royal Society Young People Book Prize in 1991.[4]

She won the EMBO Award for Communication in the Life Sciences in 2004.[2] She was awarded the Michael Faraday Prize in 2005 "for her outstanding work in communicating the concepts, facts and fascination of science in a way that appeals to children of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities, while at the same time maintaining a distinguished research career".[5] In 2006 she was awarded Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences for her contributions to and achievements in medicine.[3]

In 2015 she received an Honorary degree from the University of Bristol.[6]

In 2017 she was awarded the Inspiring Leadership in Research Engagement Prize from Cancer Research UK.[7]

In 2021 she received the Beetlestone Award, recognising her leadership and legacy in the field of informal science learning.[8]

Personal life

Balkwill has two children, Jessica and Barnaby.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Watt, Fiona; Watt, F (1 April 2005). "Women in Cell Science". Journal of Cell Science. The Company of Biologists. 118 (Pt 7): 1339–40. doi:10.1242/jcs.01688. PMID 15788651.
  2. ^ a b c "UK scientist and children's author wins EMBO Award for Communications 2004". EMBO. 5 November 2004. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "Balkwill, Prof. Frances Rosemary". Who's Who. A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  4. ^ "Young People Book Prize: All winners, shortlisted and longlisted". The Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize. Google Docs. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  5. ^ Fleming, Nic (31 January 2006). "Laws of attraction in action". England: The Telegraph.
  6. ^ a b Bristol, University of. "Professor Frances Balkwill, OBE". Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  7. ^ Leech, Zoe. "Prof. Fran Balkwill wins Inspiring Leadership in Research Engagement Prize". Archived from the original on 18 October 2018. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  8. ^ "SMD - Queen Mary academic receives prestigious science learning award - Queen Mary University of London".

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