Dr Maria Cascio

Dr Maria Cascio
Dr Maria Cascio

Dr Maria Cascio


Athena SWAN Co-ordinator


Monday to Wednesday: University Office, Office 104, Old Aberdeen, Regent Walk, Aberdeen AB24 3FX. Telephone: 01224 272057

Thursday and Friday: Polwarth Building, Office 3:035, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, AB252ZD. Telephone: 01224 437084


Directorate of People


I graduated in July 2002 in Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technologies (Master degree-UK equivalent) from the University of Palermo (Italy), obtaining the highest mark possible under the system (110/110 cum laude).

From September 2000 to June 2002 I was based in Naples where I joined the “Endocannabinoid Research Group”, at the National Council of Research. There, I started my research aimed at understanding the involvement of the “Endocannabinoid System” in both pathological and physiological conditions.

In my PhD project I explored some pharmacological strategies for targeting the endocannabinoid system. Also, I was involved in a project that focused on the study of one of the main enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of the endocannabinoid, 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol: diacyl-glycerol lipase (DGL). Most of this work was directed at the characterization of the two isoforms (alpha and beta) of this enzyme and at the design, synthesis (done by collaborators) and biological evaluation of molecules able to inhibit DGL selectively.

In 2007, I moved to the University of Aberdeen and as Research Fellow (supported by GW Pharmaceuticals) I have been involved, in collaboration with Professor Roger Pertwee, in the pharmacological in vitro characterization of new Cannabis-derived cannabinoids.

In 2012 I was short-listed as Lecturer in Pharmacology at the University of Aberdeen.

In 2014 I was promoted to Research Fellow, Grade 7 (Lecturer grade).

I am co-author of more than 60 peer-reviewed papers


I am co-author of 6 book chapters:

  1. Cascio MG and Pertwee, R.G. Known pharmacological actions of nine non-psychotropic phytocannabinoids. Chapter 6, in “Handbook of Cannabis”, edited by Roger Pertwee.
  2. Pertwee RG. and Cascio MG. Chemical constituents of cannabis that  activate cannabinoid receptors. Chapter 7, in “Handbook of Cannabis”, edited by Roger Pertwee.
  3. Cascio MG. and Pertwee RG. The function of the endocannabinoid system. Chapter 3, in “Marijuana and Madness”, second edition, edited by David Castle, Robin M. Murray and Deepack Cyril D’Souza.
  4. Cascio MG and Marini P. Biosynthesis and Fate of endocannabinoids. Chapter 3, in Handbook of Endocannabinoids, edited by Roger Pertwee (In progress).
  5. Marini P, Cascio MG and Pertwee RG. The cyclic AMP assay. "Endocannabinoid signaling: Methods and Protocols" edited by Dr Mauro Maccarrone.
  6. Cascio MG, Marini P,  and Pertwee RG. The displacement binding assay using the cannabinoid CB2 receptor. "Endocannabinoid signaling: Methods and Protocols" edited by Dr Mauro Maccarrone.


  • I am the Departmental co-ordinator of the Athena SWAN Charter which recognises work undertaken in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) and AHSSBL (Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, Business and Law) areas in academic, professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. The charter recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women. In my role,  I ensure that individual Schools/Departments continue to take actions to overcome barriers to career progression for ALL.
  • I am the Institutional co-ordinator of the Race Equality Charter which aims to improve the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within Higher Education. The Charter provides a framework through which institutions work to identify and self-reflect on institutional and cultural barriers standing in the way of minority ethnic staff and students. 

Currently, 16 out of 16 Schools/Institutes at Aberdeen University hold an Athena SWAN Bronze award.

The Institution holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award since 2012 and it is a member of the Race Equality Charter since September 2019.

If you wish to find out more about the Athena SWAN Charter, please visit:



If you wish to find out more about the Race Equality Charter, please visit:


If you wish to get in touch, please email me! m.cascio@abdn.ac.uk

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

Membership of Professional Bodies/Committees/Working Groups

Member of the University Postdoctoral Research Committee, January 2020;

Member of the University Racial Harrassment Working Group, since January 2020;

Member of the University Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, January 2019-at present;

Lead of the Institutional Athena SWAN Steering Group from January 2019;

Member of the University Inclusion Week working group, November 2018-at present;

Unconscious Bias Observer at Promotions Committees, 2018;

Member of the Gender Action Plan Committee (University of Aberdeen), 2017-at present;

Member of Equality and Diversity Research Group (School of Psychology/University of Aberdeen) 2016-at present;

Member of the University Equality and Diversity Advisory Group (AGED), 2015-2018;

Member of the University Athena SWAN Self-assessment Team (GESG), 2014-2018;

Member of STEMM Self Assessment Teams, 2014-at present;

Member of the Radiation Hazards Sub Committee, University of Aberdeen, 2012-2014;

Member of the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS), 2004-2014;

External Memberships

Professional activities

  • Radiation Protection Supervisor, Level 6th, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, (2012-2014).
  • Guest Associate Editor, Frontiers in Neuropharmacology, Research topic:”Additive drugs targeting GPCRs: new cross-talk mechanisms" (2013-2014).  
  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, since 2012
  • Paper co-evaluator at F1000 faculty (www.F1000biology.com)
  • Peer reviewer of international scientific journals
  • Book reviewer: “Cannabinoids in Nature and Medicine”, Didier M. Lambert Editor

Research Overview

Main research interests are:

. Medicinal chemistry

. 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

. Anti-proliferative effects of the omega 3 fatty acids/ethanolamides in prostate cancer

Technical Experience

Biochemistry assays: Western Blotting, PCR, Plasmid Transfection, Lipid extraction from tissues and cells.

Immunofluorimetric assays: p-ERK 1/2 AlphaScreen®, SureFire® (Envision, Perkin Elmer), E.L.I.S.A., cyclic AMP, β-arrestin.

Pharmacological assay: [35S]GTPγS binding, [3H]Displacement binding, Impedance-based system (RT-CES®) for dynamic monitoring of GPCRs activation in living cells.

Chromatography (Silica gel and HPLC).

Cells culturing

Simple synthesis of chemical tools


Current Research

Maria Grazia Cascio's current research is directed at elucidating the pharmacological actions of plant cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and cannabigerol (CBG). In addition, she is currently involved in projects aimed at identifying new potent and selective ligands for the cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors. For this she is collaborating with chemists based in Italy.

My research also focuses on the study of the anti-proliferative effects of two fish oil omega 3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) and their ethanolamides (DHEA and EPEA) in two prostate cancer cell lines, PC3 and LNCaP.


Internal collaborators

Dr Iain Brown (Project: Prostate cancer)

Professor Matteo Zanda (Project: New CB1 ligands for PET)

Dr Mirela Delibegovic (Project: The study of the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in diabetic nephropathy).

External collaborators

Dr Ben Whalley, University of Reading (Project: The anticonvulsant properties of some plant-derived cannabinoids);

Professor Angelo Izzo, University “Federico II” of Naples (Project: The ability of some plant-derived cannabinoids to ameliorate murine colitis;

Professor Daniela Parolaro, University of Milan (Project: The ability of some plant-derived cannabinoids to ameliorate schizophrenia);

Dr Barbara Costa, University of Busto Arstizio (Project: Investigation of the analgesic properties of the plant-derived cannabigerol),

Dr Ganesh Takhur, (Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston) (Project: Investigation of the pharmacological profile of new synthetic CB1 cannabinoid receptor Positive Allosteric Modulators);

Professor Federico Corelli and Dr Antonella Brizzi, (University of Siena),

Professor Giovanni Appendino (University of Novara);

Professor Romano Silvestri and Professor Giorgio Ortar (University of Rome).

Funding and Grants

Delibegovic M, Cascio MG and Pertwee RG. Diabetes. Eighteen months (2014-2016). £130,306.

Takhur G, Cascio MG, Pertwee RG et al.,. NIDA. Five years (2014 to 2019). £248,098.

Pertwee RG and Cascio MG. Honours Student Project, 10 weeks (January 2014 - March 2014), University of Aberdeen, £400.

Cascio MG. Summer student from Brazil, 3 months (June 2013 - August, 2013), University of Aberdeen, £600.

Cascio MG, Marini P, Brown I, Pertwee R.G. NHS Grampian Endowment Research Fund, Scotland, UK. One year (April 2013- March 2014). £7,680.

Brown I, Cascio MG, Sneddon AA, Wahle KWJ, Pertwee RG, Heys SD. Fraserburgh Moonlight Prowl and University of Aberdeen. PhD studentship in Nutrition and Cancer. Three years (2010 to 2013). Student stipend, home/EU fees and £3,000 towards consumables.

Cascio MG and Pertwee RG. Honours Student Project, 10 weeks (January 2012 - March 2012), University of Aberdeen, £1,200.

Brown I, Cascio MG, Heys SD, Pertwee RG. & Ross RA. Tenovus Scotland. One year (April 2010-March 2011). £9,800.

Brown I, Cascio MG. & Pertwee RG.  NHS GRAMPIAN ENDOWMENTS. One year (April 2010-March 2011). £7,300.



Teaching Responsibilities

Supervisor of both undergraduate and PhD students

Student tutor in Life Sciences subjects