Professor Alastair Compston

Emeritus Fellow
University Positions
Professor Emeritus of Neurology
Specialising in
Clinical neurosciences

Alastair Compston is the former Head of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences and an Emeritus Fellow of Jesus College.

Academic interests

My research interests focus on clinical and experimental demyelinating disease with an emphasis on multiple sclerosis - the commonest potentially disabling disease of young adults.

The research group has a broad set of interests:

  • We work on the aetiology, with international collaborations in genetics involving large scale whole genome screens for factors that confer susceptibility and influence disease progression
  • In neurobiology we study interactions between glia and axons, and the potential role of human stem cells as 'medicines' for limiting and the repairing the damage
  • Our work in therapeutic immunology has used the monoclonal antibody Campath-1H (Alemtuzimab) both to treat patients and to understand mechanisms of tissue injury that determine the clinical course of the disease.

Degrees obtained

  • MBBS, PhD, FRCP.

Awards and prizes

  • Sobek Foundation International Research Prize, 2002.
  • Charcot Award of Multiple Sclerosis International Federation, 2007.
  • K-J Zülch Prize of the Max Planck Society, 2010.
  • McDonald Award of the MS Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 2011.
  • World Federation of Neurology Medal for Scientific Achievement in Neurology, 2013.
  • John Dystel Prize of the American Academy of Neurology and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of the USA, 2015.
  • Richard and Mary Cave award of the Multiple Sclerosis Society for lifetime contributions to multiple sclerosis.
  • Hughlings Jackson Medal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 2015.
  • Galen Medal of the Society of Apothecaries, 2016.
  • Association of British Neurologists Medal, 2016.
  • Koetser Prize, 2018.
  • Jean Hunter Medal, 2018.


Alastair Compston qualified in medicine from the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, UCL, in 1971, and subsequently trained in neurology at the National Hospital and the Institute of Neurology, Queen Square. He was previously:

  • Professor of Neurology, University of Wales College of Medicine, 1987-8
  • Consultant advisor in neurology to the UK Chief Medical Officer, 1994-2001
  • President of the European Neurological Society, 2002-3
  • Chair of the Neurosciences and Mental Health Panel of the Wellcome Trust, 2001-4
  • Editor of Brain (2004-13); and president of the Association of British Neurologists, 2009-2010.

Alastair Compston is also:

  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, 1997 
  • Foundation Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, 1998
  • Foreign Member of the Royal Physiographic Society of Lund, 2000 
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, 2000 
  • Foreign Member of the National Academy of Sciences of Germany, 2008
  • Foreign Associate Member, National Academy of Medicine of the USA, 2012.
  • Fellow of the Royal Society, 2016.

Other interests

  • History of medicine.

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