by Colin Smith
Imperial researchers who are preventing brain injuries in newborn babies, fighting tuberculosis, improving the effectiveness of clinical trials and combating heart disease have been awarded prestigious Fellowships, it is announced today.
Professor Denis Azzopardi from the Institute of Clinical Science, Professor Deborah Ashby from the School of Public Health, and Professors Jaspal Kooner and Ajit Lalvani, who are both from the National Heart and Lung Institute, are among 46 leading scientists honoured with Fellowships from the Royal Academy of Medical Sciences.
Academy Fellows are elected for outstanding contributions to the advancement of medical science, for innovative application of scientific knowledge, or for their prominent service to healthcare.
The new Fellows will be formally admitted to the Academy at a ceremony on Wednesday 27 June 2012. This takes the total number of Fellows at the College to 86.
Professor Sir Anthony Newman Taylor, Principal of the Faculty of Medicine, says: " The elections this year to to the Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Science provide public recognition of the outstanding contributions each has made to advancing medical knowledge. I wish to congratulate them on behalf of the College and Faculty of Medicine on their distinguished and well deserved award."
Denis Azzopardi, Professor of Neonatal Medicine
Professor Azzopardi’s main research interest is preventing brain injury in newborn babies. His investigations into the mechanisms, methods of assessment and treatments for brain injury culminated in his leading international trials that confirmed that 72 hours cooling improves these babies chances of survival without disability by 50 percent. Professor Azzopardi has now set up a national register to ensure that this treatment is available throughout the UK.
Professor Azzopardi said: “The newborn period is a high risk period and clinical research is essential to improve outcomes for premature and sick newborns. Being elected a Fellow of the Academy is a highlight of my career and it is a wonderful honour. It will provide a platform for me to champion greater access for neonates to clinical research and for rapid implementation of research findings into clinical practice.”
Professor Deborah Ashby, Chair in Medical Statistics and Clinical Trials
Professor Ashby is Co-Director of Imperial Clinical Trials Unit. Her research focuses on improving the methods used for designing and analysing clinical trials and she is also creating methods to help drug regulators make good and transparent decisions on the benefit-risk balance when deciding which medicines to license.
Professor Ashby says: “My family was really proud when they heard I was getting this honour, if a little bemused as to why I need yet more letters after my name! Jokes aside, much of my research and committee work is at the interface of academic, pharmaceutical and government spheres. The Academy brings together expertise from all these. While I have already contributed to the work of the Academy in the past, being a Fellow will bring more opportunities in the future, which I am delighted about.”
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Professor Lalvani founded and directs the Tuberculosis Research Unit, a world-leading multi-disciplinary research team that investigates a broad spectrum of fundamental questions in tuberculosis: from immunology and genetics to epidemiology, public health and policy. The Unit also has active research programmes investigating pandemic influenza andsarcoidosis. Professor Lalvani is Co-Chairman of the Section of Respiratory Infection of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London and Honorary Consultant Physician at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
Professor Lalvani said: “The overarching mission of my research is to translate basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients, including new vaccines as well as biomarkers to improve diagnosis and prognosis. I am delighted to receive this recognition from the Academy. It provides me with a new avenue to help translate new knowledge into health policy as well as to transmit the excitement of today’s extraordinary opportunities in biomedical research to younger, aspiring scientists and clinicians.”
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Professor Kooner is investigating the basis of premature coronary heart disease in UK Indian Asians and Northern Europeans. His research aims to identify the mechanisms that increase the susceptibility of Indian Asians, who comprise one quarter of the global population, to this disease and develop better risk prediction and prevention tools to improve treatments.
His research has led to the discovery of genes associated with coronary heart disease, type-2 diabetes, obesity, and related metabolic disturbances , which have implicated new molecular pathways that cause these diseases in Indian Asians. This work has established Professor Kooner as a world leader in diseases with multi-factorial genetic disorders in men, and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases in Asians.
Professor Kooner, who is also a Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “Receiving this honour has gone down well at home, which I am really pleased about. This fellowship is a v ery welcome opportunity for me to contribute further to advancement of translational medical research and patient care with like minded colleagues. It’s a great tribute to the hard work and achievements of the people that I am privileged to work with, and also a personal honour.”
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