Professor Roger Pertwee

Emeritus Professor

Professor Roger Pertwee

Contact Details

Address: School of Medical Sciences
Institute of Medical Sciences
University of Aberdeen
Aberdeen AB25 2ZD
Scotland, UK

hCard  (ICRS; International Cannabinoid Research Society) (IACM; International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines) (Faculty of 1000) (IUPHAR; Cannabinoid Receptor Nomenclature) (Beckley Foundation)

Pertwee at (ISI Web of Knowledge) (Scopus)


Roger Pertwee's research focuses on the pharmacology of cannabinoids. He began his work in this area in 1968 as a post-doc with Professor Sir William Paton at the Department of Pharmacology, Oxford University. He initially worked with cannabis and also with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol, both of which were extracted from tincture of cannabis, then still a legal medicine in the UK. This research led to the demonstration that cannabidiol is a highly effective inhibitor of hepatic microsomal enzymes and to the development of the "ring immobility test", still widely used as a behavioural bioassay.

After moving to Aberdeen in 1974, Roger Pertwee continued with his cannabinoid research, initially investigating the basis for the hypothermic effect of THC. This work provided evidence that THC lowers the thermoregulatory set point such that animals regulate their core temperature at a lower level than normal by adjusting heat gain and heat loss both autonomically and behaviourally. In other research carried out during this time he found that cannabinoids interact synergistically with benzodiazepines and also identified the globus pallidus as one of the sites at which cannabinoids alter motor function.

Opioid research with the mouse isolated vas deferens being carried out in Hans Kosterlitz's lab in Aberdeen gave Roger Pertwee the opportunity to establish whether this tissue would also serve as a bioassay for cannabinoids. The mouse vas deferens turned out to be an extremely sensitive quantitative assay for CB1 agonists. He presented some of the initial vas deferens data at a cannabinoid meeting in Palm Beach in 1991 and this led to a collaboration with Professor Raphael Mechoulam who was also at the meeting. As a result, using the mouse vas deferens, Roger Pertwee (with Graeme Griffin) was able to provide the first evidence that anandamide not only binds to cannabinoid receptors (Dr William Devane's data) but also activates these receptors, greatly strengthening the argument that anandamide is an endogenous cannabinoid [Science (1992) 258:1946]. Since then he and his research group have gone on to characterize novel synthetic cannabinoids, for example the first water soluble cannabinoid receptor agonist, O-1057 (in collaboration with Drs Billy Martin and Raj Razdan), the first CB1-selective agonists methanandamide (with Dr Alexandros Makriyannis), ACEA and ACPA (with Dr. Cecelia Hillard), and one of the first cannabinoid receptor antagonists, AM630 (with Dr. Alexandros Makriyannis, Dr Ruth Ross and Graeme Griffin). This research was conducted using not only the mouse vas deferens and other isolated tissue preparations but also radioligand binding assays and in vitro bioassays that measure drug effects on cannabinoid receptor signalling (adenylate cyclase and GTPgammaS binding assays). Other research in his laboratory, led by Dr Angela Coutts, was directed at mapping out the distribution of cannabinoid receptors in brain and gut using immunohistochemical techniques.

Roger Pertwee is Professor of Neuropharmacology at the University of Aberdeen. He is also co-chair of the International Union of Pharmacology (IUPHAR) Subcommittee on Cannabinoid Receptors, co-ordinator of the British Pharmacological Society's Special Interest Group on Cannabinoids, visiting Professor at the University of Hertfordshire and Director of Pharmacology for GW Pharmaceuticals, heading the GW Institute of Cannabinoid Research at Aberdeen. Roger Pertwee previously also headed a Medical Research Council-funded Co-operative Group for Cannabinoid Research at Aberdeen University and in 2002 received the Mechoulam Award "for his outstanding contributions to cannabinoid research". He was also awarded the 2011 Wellcome Gold Medal by the British Pharmacological Society "for outstanding contributions to pharmacology, based mainly on research achievements". In addition, he is listed by ISI Web of Knowledge as an "ISI Highly Cited Researcher" and hence regarded as being among "the world's most cited and influential researchers" (see Pertwee at

A founding member of the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS;, Roger Pertwee is currently ICRS International Secretary and has served twice as elected ICRS president (1997 to 1998; 2007-2008). He is also a past First Chairman of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines ( (2005-2007) and currently a member of the Board of Directors of the IACM and its "Second Chairman". In addition, he is a member of the Faculty of 1000 ( and a scientific advisor on cannabinoid pharmacology/therapeutics to the Beckley Foundation (see He presented evidence on cannabis in person at the House of Lords to the Science and Technology Committee which published its report on cannabis in 1998. He is the author of numerous review articles on the cannabinoids and is often invited to speak on the pharmacology of cannabinoids at international conferences. He is also interested in the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids. Indeed, he was a contributing author of the British Medical Association book entitled "Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis." and served on the Royal Pharmaceutical Society working party that recommended and helped to design clinical trials with cannabis and THC that were carried out in the UK and funded by the Medical Research Council. Together with Drs Rik Musty and Paul Consroe he also carried out the first large survey of MS patients who self-medicate with cannabis [Eur Neurol (1997) 38: 44]. His contributions to the "medicalization of cannabis" are summarized in a Witness Seminar Transcript (Vol 40), co-authored by Crowther, S.M., Reynolds, L.A. and Tansey, E.M. and published in 2010 by The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL. This book is freely downloadable as a pdf:{}.

Roger Pertwee's current research is directed at elucidating the pharmacological actions of plant cannabinoids such as cannabidiol, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and cannabigerol. In addition, he and his collaborators in Aberdeen are currently following up a discovery made in his laboratory that there is at least one allosteric site on the cannabinoid CB1 receptor and are also exploring the pharmacology of the putative cannabinoid  receptor, GPR55, and of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and their metabolites. His research is currently supported by the BBSRC, by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (part of NIH) and by GW Pharmaceuticals.


Research Interests

Primary research interests:

·       pharmacology and therapeutic potential of plant cannabinoids

·       pharmacology of allosteric sites on cannabinoid receptors

·       novel cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptor ligands

·       new pharmacological targets for cannabinoids

·       roles of the endocannabinoid system in health and disease


Current Research

Roger Pertwee's current research is directed at elucidating the pharmacological actions of plant cannabinoids such as cannabidiol and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). In addition, he and his collaborators in Aberdeen are currently following up a discovery made in his laboratory that there is at least one allosteric site on the cannabinoid CB1 receptor and are also exploring the pharmacology of the putative cannabinoid  receptor, GPR55.



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