"I am excited about the opportunities that human genetics offers to better understand the biology of disease, and guide us to improved approaches to treatment and prevention."
I trained as an endocrinologist in Cambridge (UK) and London, and came late to research, combining the final years of my medical training with a foray into diabetes genetics under Graham Hitman and Newton Morton. A year spent in Boston with Eric Lander in the mid 90s was transformative. On my return to the UK, I took up a joint clinical and research post at Imperial College, London, and built a team working on the genetics of type 2 diabetes. I moved to Oxford as Robert Turner Professor of Diabetic Medicine in 2002, and stayed there till my move to take up the position of Senior Director in Human Genetics at Genentech in June 2019.
One of the key strengths of Genentech is the value placed on curiosity-driven research and scientific excellence to drive innovation in drug development. The postdoc program at Genentech is an embodiment of that ideal. I have been fortunate to mentor many fantastic postdocs during my time in Oxford, and look forward to continuing in that role, using the opportunity that the postdoc program at Genentech affords to conduct ambitious, cutting-edge research and to realize the career aspirations of the next wave of researchers.
The main focus of my research over the past 15 years has been increasingly large-scale efforts to harvest genetic variants influencing type 2 diabetes risk, using those discoveries to dissect the molecular and cellular basis of this disease, and then seeking opportunities to use those insights to clinical benefit. The type 2 diabetes community has been one of the drivers of advances in complex trait genetics, building on the high prevalence of the disease across the globe (which has enabled rapid expansion of sample size) and access to biosamples from most of the major tissues involved in its pathogenesis.
As Senior Director of Human Genetics at Genentech, I am excited about the contribution that human genetics will make to the development of new medicines that will allow us to treat and prevent a wide range of diseases. The research in my postdoc lab will continue to pursue research on type 2 diabetes (focusing on approaches to connect regulatory variants to their downstream effector genes and pathways; and on the use of polygenic scores to predict disease onset, progression and treatment), but will also seek to apply those approaches to the wide range of diseases of interest to Genentech.