Irene Leigh was born and educated in Liverpool. She obtained her undergraduate medical training and intercalated BSc (Hons) in Anatomy at the London Hospital Medical College and specialised in dermatology at postgraduate level. She spent two years as a lecturer in medicine at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, before returning to registrar and senior registrar positions in London. In 1983, she was appointed as Consultant Dermatologist to the London Hospital and became Professor of Dermatology in 1992, having completed an MD degree and Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine in 1999, when she received a DSc (Med) and was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Science. She acted as Research Dean (1997-2002) and subsequently Joint Research Director of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry/NHS Trust. In 2006 she was honoured with an OBE for services to medicine and also became Vice Principal and Head of College of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing at the University of Dundee and additionally Vice Principal for Research in 2009. She stepped down from these roles at the end of 2011 but retains a research professorship at the University of Dundee. She was elected as Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2009. She has served on multiple scientific advisory boards in UK and Europe, is currently President of the Rene Touraine Foundation and has held officer positions in UK and European research societies. As past president of the ESDR she is organising IID 2013 in Edinburgh, the major investigative dermatology meeting. She has directed the Cancer Research UK Skin Tumour Laboratory since 1983, focusing on research in keratinocyte biology, epithelial differentiation and skin carcinogenesis. This continues as a joint London-Dundee activity identifying genetic changes and molecular mechanisms in squamous cell carcinogenesis in both immunosuppressed and immunocompetent patients. She has also established the genetic basis of multiple genodermatoses, some with sensorineural deafness and cardiomyopathy, which is now leading to research in therapeutic developments through the Dermatology and Genetic Medicine (DGEM) initiative in Dundee. She holds an ERC advanced investigator award to develop preclinical models for testing novel therapies.