Graham Riley

Reader in Musculoskeletal Pathology, Dr

Accepting PhD Students

If you made any changes in Pure these will be visible here soon.

Personal profile

Administrative Posts

  • Chair of the UEA Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body
  • Senior Adviser, School of Biological Sciences
  • Member of University Research Ethics Committee
  • Member of Senate Student Disciplinary Committee
  • Deputy Plagiarism & Collusion Officer, School of Biological Sciences
  • Module organiser, Modern Experimental Techniques in Molecular Medicine


  • Arthritis Research UK Senior Research Fellow, University of East Anglia (2007-2012)
  • Head of Soft Tissue Injury and Repair Group, Rheumatology Research Unit (RRU) Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge (1996-2007)
  • Post-doctoral Research Assistant, RRU, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge (1993-1996)
  • Research Assistant, RRU, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge (1988-1993)
  • PhD – RRU, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge (1993)
  • Research Assistant, Wellcome Laboratories, Beckenham, Kent (1987)
  • Research Assistant, Leukaemia Research Fund Laboratories, London (1984-1986)
  • Research Assistant, Pasteur Institute, Paris, France (1982-1984)
  • BSc - Biochemistry, University of Bristol (1981)





Key Research Interests

My primary research interest is the molecular pathology of soft connective tissues such as tendon and ligament. These tissues are common sites of injury, often affected by long-term pain and prone to rupture, even in non-athletic individuals. Our research uses techniques of cell and molecular biology, histology, immunohistochemistry and biochemistry. We collaborate with clinicians and surgeons at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, in particular the Institute of Orthopaedics, to obtain human tissue samples for analysis.

Current Research Projects

These include: 1) the development of in vitro models to study tendon cell biology 2) mechanobiology: investigating the mechanism of the cell response to applied mechanical load 3) tendon biomechanics: investigating the physical properties of the tendon extracellular matrix 4) clinical tissue studies: investigating cell and molecular changes in human connective tissue pathology.

Life in our research group

We investigate a number of questions relating to the causes of tendon pain and rupture. We occupy space in the Biomedical Research Centre, a modern purpose-built research building that is well equipped for cell and molecular biology. The open-plan laboratory brings us into everyday contact with other researchers with similar interests. We are part of the Cellular Protease Group (CPG), which has a broad interest in the role of proteases in a variety of different diseases. We are also an integral part of the Musculoskeletal Research Group, which has research interests in cartilage, bone, tendon, ligament and fascia, all common sites of joint disease. We collaborate with scientists and clinicians in UEA and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, as well as colleagues outside the Norwich Research Park. For example, we have a major and growing collaboration with a team of biomedical engineers from Queen Mary, University of London. Our work is funded by major charities, such as Arthritis Research UK and The Wellcome Trust, as well as local charities such as Action Arthritis. We have regular lab meetings, attend seminars, and engage with other scientists from a range of disciplines at national and international research meetings. In a typical year we will present our work at the biannual conferences of the British Society for Matrix Biology and the annual conference of the British Society for Rheumatology. Highlights in 2013 include a plenary lecture at the Combined Orthopaedic Research Society meeting in Venice, Italy, and a keynote lecture at the International Symposium on Ligaments and Tendons in Arezzo, Italy.

PhD Positions

Click here for current PhD opportunities in Biological Sciences. But feel free to email me to discuss projects outside these areas and alternative sources of funding.

Postdocs & Fellows

I am always pleased to discuss possible research collaborations, grant applications and opportunities for graduate and postdoctoral appointments in my group. We can explore potential funding routes such as project grant applications and fellowships from bodies such as Arthritis Research UK, MRC, BBSRC, and the Wellcome Trust.

Areas of Expertise

Musculoskeletal research, particularly the role and function of metalloproteinase enzymes in tendon and their regulation by mechanical strain.

Teaching Interests

My teaching is largely in the area of ‘biomedicine’, the molecular basis of disease, at both undergraduate and post-graduate level. My lectures cover the composition and function of the extracellular matrix, and the cell and molecular changes which underlie different connective tissue diseases.

In addition, I particularly like to be involved in small group teaching, and participate in a variety of seminars that are designed to support student learning in subjects such as mathematics, chemistry, human physiology, cell biology and cancer biology.

I teach undergraduates and postgraduates on the following modules:

  • Skills for Biologists (4008Y)
  • Foundations for Chemistry and Physiology (4009Y)
  • Investigation of Human Disease (2B30)
  • Cell Biology (2B06)
  • Human Physiology (2B05)
  • Biomedicine (3C34)
  • Cancer Biology (3C27)
  • Frontiers in Molecular Medicine - MSc (M201)
  • Experimental Techniques in Molecular Medicine - MSc (M203)
  • Postgraduate Employability Programme (M82Y)
  • Research Skills (M64Y)
  • MBBS Module 02 - Locomotion (MED undergraduate teaching)
  • MSc Physiotherapy


Graham Riley is a biochemist with a research focus on the molecular pathology of tendon. A graduate of the University of Bristol, he has worked in a number of research areas in both academia and industry, including muscular dystrophy (Pasteur Institute, Paris), haemopoeitic stem cells (Institute of Cancer Research, London) and parasitology (Wellcome Laboratories, Beckenham). He completed his PhD at the Rheumatology Research Unit in Cambridge, investigating the biochemical changes that underlie chronic tendon pathology in the rotator cuff tendons of the shoulder. In 1996 he was appointed Head of the Soft Tissue Research Group at the Rheumatology Research Unit, and formed his own research group to investigate the cell and molecular pathology of tendons, ligaments and fascia.

Graham has an international reputation in the field of tendon pathology, and has published a number of key papers. In particular, his work on the role and regulation of metalloproteinases in tendon matrix turnover has resulted in several well-cited publications, and his contribution to the field was recognised by the award of a Senior Research Fellowship from Arthritis Research UK in 2007. He brought his research group to UEA the same year.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Open University

Award Date: 1 Jan 1993

Bachelor of Science, University of Bristol

Award Date: 1 Jan 1981

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or