Scientific Advisors

Claire Higgins, PhD

Claire HigginsDr. Claire Higgins was appointed as a Lecturer in the Department of Bioengineering in April 2014.  She joined Imperial after postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Prof. Angela Christiano, in the Department of Dermatology, at Columbia University in New York.  At Columbia she received a Career Development Award from the Dermatology Foundation to research the ‘Molecular basis of human hair follicle induction’.  Claire obtained a Ph.D. in Skin Developmental Biology from Durham University in 2007, and holds a B.Sc. in Natural Sciences.

The main focus of the research group is to understand mechanisms of tissue development, and regeneration, both in normal conditions, and in response to disease or injury.  The hair follicle is used as a model, as it is an accessible and elegant system to study organ regeneration.  Research into developmental, and regenerative processes means we can try and recreate them in a lab setting, and exploit the inherent properties of interacting cells to engineer new tissues and structures.

Hair follicles contain specialised cells located in a small mesenchymal compartment at the base of the follicle, termed the dermal papilla.  Interaction between the dermal papilla and the bulge (the epithelial stem cell compartment of the follicle), drives the hair follicle cycle.  Work in the lab encompasses understanding how these cells acquire their specialised ability to instruct hair growth, in addition to elucidating the role of these cells in response to traumatic injury, and their behaviour during skin repair.

Claire’s research publications can be found on Google Scholar.


Professor Paul Sharpe, PhD

Paul Sharpe

Professor Sharpe is a leading Developmental Biologist. Following postdocs in Sheffield, Wisconsin and Cambridge Prof. Sharpe became lecturer in molecular embryology at the University of Manchester in 1987 where he established a research group working on the molecular control of tooth development. He moved to his his present Chair at the Dental Institute of Guy’s Hospital (later to merge with Kings College), in 1991 where he established a new basic research department, the Department of Craniofacial Development. The department, of which he remains head, now consists of 14 academic research groups with over 70 research staff. In 2002, he became Director of Research for the Dental Institute and head of a new academic grouping of craniofacial development, orthodontics and microbiology. He has published over 180 research papers and supervised over 30 PhD students.His basic research work continues to explore the genetic interactions that control tooth development. There are many parallels between the development of teeth and hair and his experience in the understanding of the cellular and molecular processes involved in tooth formation will be of importance to the work at HairClone.


Gill Westgate, PhD

Gill is Business Development Manager for the University of Bradford’s Centre for Skin Sciences, a major centre of excellence for skin and hair research. Her role is to develop sustainable partnerships between industry and academic research and to help translate science into business opportunities.

Gill gained her undergraduate Biochemistry degree at the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in hair research. Her cosmetics and personal care industry experience was obtained at Unilever Research in the UK, where she led their scalp and hair biology research programme for many years. During this time, Gill developed in vitro models that provided both fundamental understanding of the regulation of hair growth as well as scientific claims support for several global hair-care brands.

Gill has an established Consultancy business, combining her experience and knowledge of skin and hair science with the needs of R&D in Industry. She is a past President of the European Hair Research Society and a member of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists. She serves on the organising committees for UK and international conferences and is well known in the skin and hair research field.

Gill is a co-founder and Chair of Cosmetics Cluster UK (CCUK), a networking organisation for the sector and brings over 30 years’ industry experience, research leadership skills, access to experts, funding, facilities and mentoring. She is currently working within CCUK to improve higher education development for the cosmetics sector to improve employability in the UK. Gills other is golf, which she plays regularly.