Fiona Watt is a cell biologist recognized for her work on stem cells. Watt was born and grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. After obtaining her undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University in 1976, Fiona Watt obtained her DPhil from Oxford University in 1979 for studies on microtubule organization. She was a postdoctoral researcher at M.I.T. with Howard Green, where she began to study epidermal differentiation. In 1982 she set up her first lab at the Kennedy Institute for Rheumatology in London. Five years later she moved to the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) London Research Institute, which is now part of the Francis Crick Institute. In 2007 she moved to Cambridge as founding Deputy Director of the CRUK Cambridge Research Institute and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research. In 2012 she established the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London. In 2018 she was seconded as Executive Chair of the UK Medical Research Council, which has a budget of over £750 million per year to fund world-class medical research. Watt is past president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research and a member of the Royal Society.

Research Interests

Fiona Watt's major research interests are in how the differentiated state of adult tissues is maintained and how this information can be harnessed in regenerative medicine and cancer. She studies the mechanisms that control mammalian epidermal stem cell renewal and differentiation, and how these processes are deregulated in cancer, wound healing and inflammatory skin disorders. She has pioneered the concepts that stem cells in all epidermal locations have multi-lineage differentiation potential and that stem cell fate depends on the strength and duration of a given signal. A current focus is to understand what controls the fate of human epidermal stem cells at the single cell level, applying new technologies with remarkable results. Using mouse models she has shown that fibroblasts are not a homogeneous population, but arise from different lineages during development and have different functions in adult skin She is now applying her findings to human skin fibroblasts, with a view to achieving improved skin repair in patients. Other projects explore genetic-microenvironment interactions in human iPS cells and squamous cell carcinomas.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology

Secondary Section

Section 41: Medical Genetics, Hematology, and Oncology