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Birthday honours: Mitochondrial disease doctor recognised

Birthday Honours 2016

The doctor behind a groundbreaking IVF technique which prevents disabling genetic disorders from being passed on to future generations has been knighted.

Prof Doug Turnbull, from Newcastle University, has spent 40 years researching and treating patients with mitochondrial disease.

Parliament voted last year to allow the IVF treatment to be used.

And recent study results showed the technique was safe.

Prof Turnbull said he was “delighted” to receive his knighthood.

He added: “I am privileged to work with a dedicated group of colleagues and we all work together to improve the lives of patients with mitochondrial disease.”

an embryoImage copyrightWTCMR NEWCASTLE
Image captionThree-person IVF: the nuclei from a recently created embryo – from the egg and sperm – being injected into a donor embryo which has had its nucleus removed

Prof Turnbull, from Gosforth in Newcastle, started work as a junior doctor in 1976.

Since then, he has focused on understanding the effects of a particular kind of genetic disease which can cause blindness, heart failure and, ultimately, death.

He has championed mitochondrial donation, a new IVF technique involving DNA from three people, which offers women with mitochondrial disease the chance of having healthy children.

Prof Chris Brink, vice-chancellor of Newcastle University, said Prof Turnbull was “a brilliant scientist” who had dedicated his career to understanding and treating a disease that blights the lives of families across the world.

“Few people have the kind of dedication needed to bring about a change in UK law to allow a treatment to be developed – but this is exactly what Doug has done.

“It is a mark of the significance of Doug’s achievements that he has been honoured in this way and we are all very proud of him at Newcastle.”

Knighthoods were also awarded to Richard Treisman, research director of the Francis Crick Institute, for services to biomedical science and cancer research andProf John Strang, director of the National Addiction Centre at Kings College London.

There is a damehood for Dr Denise Coia, a consultant psychiatrist, for her work in the field of mental health in Dunbartonshire.

Mr David Dunaway, a cranial facial surgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital, has been awarded a CBE for his work in the UK and Africa.

Seven nurses and six GPs have been appointed MBE.


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