Month: June 2019

Q&A with Professor Sir Mark Caulfield

As you will have seen last weekend, we were delighted that our interim Chief Executive and Chief Scientist, Professor Mark Caulfield, was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. We caught up with Sir Mark to hear his thoughts on receiving such an honour.

Congratulations Sir Mark! You must be very pleased to receive this honour – what does it mean to you?

This was not something I expected to happen ever, but I am so delighted that this recognition has come to Genomics England and myself. I do think this is a big testament to the entire team at Genomics England and our achievements. It is also humbling because I now know that a key factor in the award of this Honour was support from our Participant Panel.

How did you celebrate?

I celebrated on Saturday with my wife and my daughters with some champagne and a nice meal. As you are not supposed to tell anyone, the first big celebration was with the Genomics England team and then with the William Harvey Research Institute on Wednesday. I have been inundated by personal emails, cards and letters of congratulations.

This knighthood is recognition of a long and prestigious career, but are there any achievements that really stand out as highlights to you?

I think our team’s incredible dedication to delivery of the 100,000 Genomes Project and a new National Genomic Medicine Service stand out. I thank all of you for all you have done.

Is there anyone – scientist or otherwise – that has particularly inspired you throughout your career?

There are many but to name a few:

  • Professor Mike Floyer who was my Dean at medical school and was the most wonderful doctor who steadfastly supported me in my earlier career as a clinician, and was an inspirational role model who prized clear communication to patients and families.
  • Professor Rod Flower FRS who is a brilliant pharmacologist and has been a tremendous mentor throughout my career at the William Harvey.
  • Professor Sir Nick Wright and Dame Sally Davies who mentored me and gave me the opportunity of leadership.

What might your knighthood mean for Genomics England?

It signals public recognition at the highest level of our achievements as a team.

Do you think this honour will help to increase the awareness of genomics among the wider public?

It was great to be honoured alongside Prof Sir Peter Donnelly. To my mind much more important is the way we communicate genomics as a team and it is clear there is more to do here.

You’ve achieved so much already – what’s your next ambition?

To deliver a clear mission and delivery plan for the aspiration for 5 million genome analyses that commands the support of the Government and other funding.

 

Leading genomics expert awarded knighthood in the Queen’s birthday honours

Professor Mark Caulfield, the interim Chief Executive at Genomics England and Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at Queen Mary University of London, has been awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Since 2013 Professor Caulfield has been instrumental in delivering the world-leading 100,000 Genomes Project, which hit its target of sequencing 100,000 whole genomes in 2018 and has already delivered life-changing results for patients.

This NHS transformation programme used whole genome sequencing to bring new diagnoses to people with rare diseases and to help choose cancer therapies.

To increase the value for participants in the project, Professor Caulfield established a coalition of 3,000 researchers worldwide and assisted the NHS in the creation of the National Genomic Test Directory. This will offer equitable access for 55 million people, depending on clinical need, to the appropriate genomic tests via a new National Genomic Medicine Service.

Professor Mark Caulfield said:

I have been incredibly lucky to stand amongst and alongside giants from our NHS, Genomics England, our universities, the government, our funders and most importantly, our participants. Together they helped me to transform genomics in healthcare. Their commitment, generosity, and trust has made our nation the world leader in the application of genomic medicine in the NHS. I am deeply honoured and thank every one of those who made this possible.

Jonathan Symonds CBE, the Chair of Genomics England said:

Mark’s knighthood is a fitting recognition of his pioneering and tireless work in genomics. He is an extraordinary clinician scientist whose contribution and leadership are respected worldwide for delivering the 100,000 Genomes Project. His role as Chief Scientist of Genomics England has seen whole genome sequencing reveal new diagnoses, improve treatments, and fuel medical research. It has benefited and will benefit many, many people across the world. This award is richly deserved.

Professor Colin Bailey, President and Principal of Queen Mary University of London, said:

I am delighted that Mark’s outstanding work in genomics has been recognised with such a prestigious honour. His pioneering work will pave the way for new diagnoses and precision healthcare across the globe. He is truly one of our stars at Queen Mary, and it is wonderful to see his contribution to science and medicine recognised with this honour.

Professor Caulfield graduated in Medicine from the London Hospital Medical College in 1984 and trained in Clinical Pharmacology at the Medical College of St Bartholomew’s Hospital and Queen Mary University of London, where he holds a Chair.

He has made substantial contributions to the discovery of genes related to cardiovascular health, cancer and rare diseases, including the discovery of more than 1,000 gene regions for blood pressure. He is amongst the top 1 per cent of the most highly cited researchers worldwide and his clinical pharmacology research has changed national and international guidance for high blood pressure.

Since 2000 he has been a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, and in 2002 he was appointed Director of the William Harvey Research Institute at Queen Mary University of London.

In 2008 he was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, and became Director of the NIHR Barts Biomedical Research Centre.

Professor Caulfield was the academic lead for the creation of the Barts Heart Centre, bringing three hospitals together in 2015 to create the UK’s largest heart centre.

In 2013 he became an NIHR Senior Investigator and was appointed Chief Scientist for Genomics England where he has led the scientific strategy and delivery of the 100,000 Genomes Project, which sequenced the 100,000th genome on 5 December 2018. He became interim Chief Executive of Genomics England in January 2019.

The funders of this healthcare transformation leading to this award:

The 100,000 Genomes Project was primarily funded by the National Institute for Health Research (which also helped to recruit participants and store biological samples). Generous funding also came from the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England, and the administrations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.