Our Team

Professor Ying Li

Professor Ying Li is a renowned research scientist in the field of spinal cord injury repair by cell transplantation in experimental models.


The late Professor Geoffrey Raisman formed the team that Professor Li now leads with Dr. Daqing Li.

Professor Li is collaborating with Dr. Pawel Tabakow and his team to translate the laboratory work to clinical application. 

She was involved in the treatment of the first spinal cord injury patient by autologous transplantation of OECs obtained from the patient’s own olfactory bulb. 


It was a very successful case and the team are now planning to treat more patients.

Dr. Daqing Li

Dr. Daqing Li is a cell culture specialist working at the Spinal Repair Unit, the Department of Brain Repair and Rehabilitation, UCL Institute of Neurology.

Dr. Li carries out the central role of culturing and characterising the rat and human olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) and their preparation for transfer to the site of injury. 


He collaborated with Dr. Pawel Tabakow and his team to grow the OECs for the first successful case of autologous transplantation of the OECs to treat spinal cord injury.


Dr. Li is now working closely with colleagues to prepare for the treatment of more patients. 


This preparation includes efforts to improve techniques of tissue acquisition, cell culture and efficient use of the limited cell numbers with fabrication of cellular-biomaterial scaffolds

Dr Pawel Tabakow

Dr. Pawel Tabakow is a leading neurosurgeon. He has received funding from nsif to pursue the clinical application of Professor Raisman’s research, having been inspired by the professor’s work.

Dr. Tabakow is a consultant neurosurgeon in the Department of Neurosurgery at Wroclaw University Hospital. He is also an assistant professor in neurosurgery at Wroclaw Medical University.


His clinical work is mainly focused on minimally invasive neurosurgery. He performs operations in the field of brain oncology, functional neurosurgery, spinal cord pathologies and hydrocephalus, using microsurgical, neuro-endoscopic and stereotactic systems as well as intraoperative image-guided approaches.


He invented the technique of intraoperative ventriculography using the low field intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging during the endoscopic treatment of hydrocephalus and arachnoid cysts (paper published in Neurosurgery 2013 Vol.73(4); s.730-738).


In 2002, he co-founded with Professor Wlodzimierz Jarmundowicz, the head of the Department of Neurosurgery Wroclaw Medical University, an interdisciplinary team working on the possibility of using olfactory ensheathing cells in the treatment of patients with a complete spinal cord injury. The team’s work led in 2008 to the first successful intraspinal transplantation of these cells, led by Dr. Tabakow. The team started collaborating with Professor Raisman’s team in 2010 to take this procedure to the next stage.

Professor Geoffrey Raisman

We were deeply saddened to hear of Professor Geoffrey Raisman’s passing on 27th January 2017. Please read a tribute to him written by our founder David Nicholls.

Professor Geoffrey Raisman FRS was a world-class British neuroscientist who lead a dedicated team focused on the repair of spinal cord injuries. He was a pioneer in the field of SCI and received funding from nsif.


He was Chair of Neural Regeneration at University College London’s Institute of Neurology at Queen Square, and was a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences.


Professor Raisman’s groundbreaking work at the University of Oxford established for the first time that the adult brain and spinal cord respond to injuries by forming new connections.


In 1980, Professor Raisman received the Wakeman Award for Research in the Neurosciences. In 1985, he discovered a type of cell, the olfactory ensheathing cell (OEC), which guides the natural regeneration of the nerve fibres that carry the sense of smell from the nose to the brain.


In 2005, Professor Raisman was awarded the Reeve-Irvine medal for critical contributions to promoting repair of the damaged spinal cord and recovery of


Together with Professor Ying Li and Dr Daqing Li, the team has shown that transplantation of these cells into spinal cord injuries in laboratory models results in regeneration of severed nerve fibres and restoration of function.


The team is now working on the practical steps needed to apply this approach to spinal injured patients.

Professor Raisman believed success in patients with spinal cord injuries will in future open the way to applying similar principles to devise new approaches to stroke, blindness and deafness.


We are proud to announce that nsif will be honouring the late Geoffrey Raisman by funding the ‘Professor Geoffrey Raisman Fellowship’ at UCL. By funding a PhD student, it will add further strength to the brilliant UCL team led by Professor Ying Li.


Together they will continue to develop the work that Geoff was so passionate about, bringing us closer towards the ultimate goal of a cure for paralysis through SCI. Read more about it here.

Modinat Liadi

Modinat Liadi is a PhD researcher at the Spinal Repair Unit, Department of Brain Repair and Rehabilitation, UCL Institute of Neurology. 

She works primarily on improving limited cell numbers and incorporating biomaterials in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. She also models the repair of spinal cord injuries using in vivo surgical models.


Modinat hopes to establish a technique of transplanting cells into the spinal cord as a viable method for treating spinal cord injuries. NSIF has funded her for six years.

Kamile Minkelyte

Kamile joined the team at UCL in 2019 through the nsif funded Geoffrey Raisman Fellowship. 

Kamile will spend 3-years completing her PhD, which will work towards developing a model of spinal cord injury using special cells called olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) (located in the forebrain) and the mucosa (located in the nasal cavity).


This work will advance our knowledge of the mechanisms involved in SCI and repair for the benefit of patients. We recently visited Kamile at the lab to see how she has been getting on in the first year of her project.

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