Published 7 Jun 2019
Peter Donnelly, the chief executive of Genomics plc and Professor of Statistical Science at the University of Oxford, has been awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday honours 2019, for services to the understanding of human genetics in disease.
Professor Donnelly has dedicated his career to statistics and genetics, through the leadership of many pioneering national and international human genetics studies, and the development and application of sophisticated statistical methods to large- scale genomic data. In 2014, he co-founded Genomics plc with the aim of harnessing genomic data to transform healthcare.
Genomics plc has since become a leader in the field of genomic analysis to improve understanding of human disease, both to aid the discovery and development of new medicines and to better target clinical care.
Professor Donnelly said: “I feel thrilled and tremendously honoured to have been awarded a knighthood by Her Majesty The Queen. This honour is a recognition not just of my work but also that of the outstanding researchers I have collaborated with over many years in pursuit of new insights into human genetics and its role in common diseases.”
Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said: “I congratulate Peter on this richly deserved honour for more than three decades of ground-breaking work at the frontiers of both statistics and biology. He has been a pioneer in the revolution in our knowledge of human genetics, and his academic research and now his work in Genomics plc has the potential to significantly impact on disease prevention and the lives of patients.”
The citation for Professor Donnelly’s knighthood said:
Professor Peter Donnelly has made seminal contributions to statistics and its application to human genetics for more than 30 years. The analytical methods he developed have been used extensively and underpin our ability to undertake modern genetic research. He has also led many of the major national and international projects in the field. His Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium investigations were unprecedented in scale and reach and have revolutionised our understanding of the genetic basis of common diseases, with findings opening the door to treatments that improve the quality of life for millions of patients across the world. He has also made a significant contribution to the quality of research across his sector through many advisory roles. As Chief Executive of Genomics plc, he continues to be a leading figure in the UK life sciences sector, leading cutting edge research and supporting new opportunities for drug discovery and for the use of genetics in clinical medicine. He is an outstanding ambassador for the UK life sciences sector, engaging the public with his work in genomics and on the genetic history of the UK. Additionally, as Chair of the Royal Society’s Machine Learning Group, he has played a key role in developing public policy in this area.
A citizen of the UK and his native Australia, Professor Donnelly is now focused primarily on his role as Chief Executive of Genomics plc. The company has developed the largest database of its kind in the world, linking genetic variants at 14 million positions in our DNA to over 10,000 measurements on people, including disease outcomes, biomarkers, and molecular and cellular traits. The company uses sophisticated statistical and machine learning tools to interrogate the data to learn about the connections between genetics and disease. Genomics plc uses this approach in precision health and predictive disease prevention, through polygenic risk scores, and in drug discovery, to identify new drug targets and to assess the likely efficacy and safety of novel medicines.
Ben Atwell and Andrew Ward at FTI Consulting
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