By: 3 March 2015
Laura Counsell, BSRF – Advancing knowledge of scoliosis

SSN meet Laura Counsell, National Director at the British Scoliosis Research Foundation (BSRF)



What is your position in BSRF and what does your role entail?
I’m National Director at the British Scoliosis Research Foundation, with responsibility for managing our research grants and organising the Phillip Zorab Symposia, a series of biennial basic science conferences dedicated to advancing knowledge of scoliosis. I also work closely with our communications officer and manage BSRF’s fundraising.

Tell us a little about BSRF and the driving force behind its vision to promote research into the treatment of spinal deformities in the UK?
Our mission is to contribute to discovering the cause of idiopathic scoliosis, and to improve the quality of life for people with all types of scoliosis. We directly fund research into aetiology, but also scoliosis treatments, surgical and otherwise. We also believe that it is incredibly important to encourage the next generation of scoliosis specialists, which we do by support the research work of young surgeons, helping to stimulate an interest in scoliosis in newly qualified doctors. With the Zorab Symposia, the 14th of which we will be holding in Edinburgh next year, we are providing a forum for physicians and researchers from across the globe to come together and discuss their work. It really is a world-class conference.

The Symposia are named after our founder, Phillip Zorab, chest physician at the Royal Brompton Hospital, London, who specialised in respiratory problems caused by scoliosis. It was Dr Zorab’s clinic that saw the creation of the Scoliosis Association (UK) (SAUK), the patients’ organisation with which we work closely.

What are BSRF’s current research and fundraising projects?
The BSRF is currently funding a number of projects of quite differing scope. We’re part-funding research in Exeter on the genetic basis of familial and non-familial congenital scoliosis and abnormal vertebral segmentation, which is an ambitious and exciting project. However, we also support smaller projects with a more immediate benefit for patients, such as those in Birmingham and Edinburgh which are investigating the efficacy of certain clinical practices.

Much of our fundraising is through a joint venture with SAUK, the Scoliosis Campaign Fund (SCF). SCF has runners in the London Marathon and the British London 10K, and our fundraisers also organise events such as bake sales, pub quizzes and personal sponsored challenges. We also receive support from individuals and trusts, and this is absolutely invaluable to being able to continue our work.

How closely do you work with surgeons or medical device companies?
The BSRF Council has lay members but broadly it is made up of surgeons. We have both practising and retired surgeons as Council members, an independent grants committee, and we also have a close relationship with the British Scoliosis Society, the organisation representing healthcare professionals working in the field of spinal deformity. Our rigorous processes ensure that applications being considered for funding are fully peer-reviewed, and BSRF is a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities. The Zorab Symposia are supported by industry and this sponsorship allows us to ensure that the venue and speakers are as world-class as the research being presented.

How can our readers become involved in the charity?
We’re really excited about the Phillip Zorab Symposium in Edinburgh next year – it’s set to be another event attracting UK specialists and researchers from all around the world, and our confirmed speakers are fantastic. Abstract submission has just opened and we are looking forward to receiving submissions in the areas of genetic research, growth modulation in idiopathic scoliosis, and the benefits of surgery in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. There’s plenty of information on Zorab, and our grant rounds on our website

Our affiliated charity, the Scoliosis Association (UK) ( is always looking for willing authors and peer reviewers, as well as hosts for patient meetings, so there’s plenty to get involved with on that side too.





British Scoliosis Research Foundation



T: 020 8960 7110