Gisli Jenkins, Professor of Experimental Medicine and Consultant in Respiratory Medicine, is the first University of Nottingham academic to be awarded a prestigious NIHR Research Professorship.
NIHR Research Professors are some of the country’s most outstanding research leaders.
The five-year, £1.7m award recognises Professor Jenkins’ pioneering work in understanding pathogenic mechanisms to enable and deliver novel therapeutic strategies for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), a progressive lung disease with a worse outcome than most cancers.
Professor Jenkins has established the largest prospective cohort of treatment naïve patients with IPF in the world and the NIHR award will allow him to extend his research by analysing genetic, biological and phenotypic data to identify biomarkers of pulmonary fibrosis, regardless of its cause or origin, that predict the disease course, and identify biomarkers of response to therapy. This biomarker-guided strategy will enable a precision medicine approach to managing patients with pulmonary fibrosis.
He said: “I am so excited about receiving this award because it will enable a step change in translating my group’s understanding of disease biology into better therapeutic strategies for patients with pulmonary fibrosis.”
Pulmonary fibrosis is a process that leads to progressive scarring in the lungs and ultimately death. Pulmonary fibrosis affects over 50,000 people in the UK but early, subclinical disease is likely to affect many, many more.
Professor Jenkins added: “This award will allow time and resource for my group to develop our understanding of molecular and cell-specific pathways to identify markers of disease activity. These can be used to personalise therapy for patients who are likely to benefit from treatment regardless of why or when they get fibrosis. In short, it will enable us to treat the right patient, with the right drug at the right time.”
NIHR Research Professorships aim to promote effective translation of research and strengthen research leadership at the highest academic levels. They enable outstanding academics to spend five years dedicated to translational research, and to develop capacity in areas critical to accelerating the transfer of research ideas into improved health.
The NIHR Professorship will enable Professor Jenkins to collaborate with experts in this field of genomics and big-data analysis, coupled with mentorship from world-renowned leaders, to create a self-sustaining translational research group focused on precision medicine for pulmonary fibrosis. The work will complement his basic science Lung Fibrosis Laboratory, enabling the group to become one of the leading Translational Fibrosis Research Units in the world and placing Nottingham at the forefront of international research.
Professor Tony Avery, Dean and Head of the School of Medicine, said: “We are all absolutely delighted for Gisli. The NIHR Research Professorship is extremely prestigious, and the level of achievement required for success is incredibly high. This Professorship will give a major boost to the excellent research that Gisli is already doing to better understand how best to treat pulmonary fibrosis, which currently has a devastating effect on the lives of millions of patients worldwide. Through the research that Gisli will do as part of the professorship, I am optimistic that the lives of future patients with pulmonary fibrosis will be transformed for the better.”
Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange, said: “Professor Jenkins’ award is such an accolade, and a prestigious first for the University of Nottingham. Gisli’s research is already world-leading and his NIHR Research Professorship will further strengthen our partnerships and capacity to support the translation of his unit’s discoveries into novel, personalised therapies. This award is the latest in a significant number of £1m-plus for our researchers and their teams in the past year, and I’m delighted that leading funders are continuing to recognise such exceptional dedication in addressing big challenges in health and other fields.”
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