Clifford Woolf

Professor of Neurology Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School

Clifford Woolf, M.D., Ph.D., was born in South Africa, where he earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees. He then moved to London and became Professor of Neurobiology at University College London. In 1997 he was recruited by the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School (HMS) to serve as the first Richard J. Kitz Professor of Anesthesiology Research at HMS. In 2007 he was named director of the F. M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and became Professor of Neurology Neurobiology at HMS and a faculty member in the department of Neurobiology. Dr. Woolf was co-director of the neuroscience program of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute from 2013 to 2018.

Dr. Woolf has made numerous critical contributions that have transformed our understanding of the neurobiological basis of pain. In 1983, he discovered central sensitization, demonstrating for the first time that pain hypersensitivity is to a large extent the consequence of central synaptic plasticity. This finding has provided a mechanistic basis for many common pain syndromes like migraine, postsurgical and neuropathic pain.

Over his career Dr. Woolf has received many honors and prizes. He was awarded the Gill Distinguished Scientist award and the Reeve-Irvine medal in 2017 and in 2015 the Kerr award from the American Pain Society and became an honorary fellow of the Irish College of Anesthetists. In 2015, Dr. Woolf was appointed to the Board of Scientific Councilors of the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke. He has published 285 research papers with an h-index of 143, was presented a highly cited researcher award by the Web of Science in 2018, has 30 issued patents and has founded five companies.