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Molecular Geneticists recognised for Outstanding International Impact


Congratulations to Professor Sian Ellard, Head of Molecular Genetics at the RD&E and Professor Andrew Hattersley, Consultant Diabetologist and R&D Director at the RD&E. Together with Peninsula Medical School colleagues, Dr Maggie Shepherd and Dr Sarah Flanagan, they have been awarded the University of Exeter Outstanding International Impact Award for transforming the lives of children born with diabetes.


Molecular Geneticists


The team studied children diagnosed with diabetes within the first six months of their lives. This is a rare genetic form of diabetes, and by identifying the genes that cause the condition they were able to prove that the two commonest types are better treated with sulphonylurea tablets rather than insulin injections.


Their work has revolutionised the diagnosis and care of these patients, who now have a normal life on tablets when previously they would have expected to be on insulin for the rest of their lives. The tablets also cost less, providing savings for the NHS and global significance in countries where insulin affordability is an issue.


RD&E Clinical Biochemist Dr Tim McDonald was also nominated in the Student Impact category, which recognises students or alumni who have already demonstrated significant societal or economic impact either through research or entrepreneurial activities. Only three years into his research career, Tim McDonald has increased the accuracy of diabetes diagnoses in the UK.


Tim developed a urine test to identify sufferers of monogenic diabetes, who are often misdiagnosed with more common type 1 or type 2 diabetes. His research has already directly improved patient care and the test is now used routinely across this Trust and samples received for testing from 40 others.


The first ever Exeter Impact Awards celebrated the diverse range of research taking place within the University of Exeter and the benefits it brings to the wider community. Twenty eight entries were shortlisted over seven categories, also including Impact in Commerce & Industry; Public Policy & Services and Social & Cultural Impact, by a panel of distinguished experts.


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