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60 Seconds with ... Prof Derek Yellon, Professor of Molecular & Cellular Cardiology

60 seconds with... Professor Derek Yellon, Professor of Molecular & Cellular Cardiology

Derek Yellon

Tell us about your recent study?

A study published this year in the New England Journal of Medicine called ERICCA. Although it was neutral in terms of clinical outcome it was a study which was undertaken based upon well-established pre-clinical data from ourselves and others. It clearly demonstrated the vast divide between basic and clinical research and how both sides need to reconcile their huge differences in methodological approach.

What made you want to become a researcher?

I always had a fascination for human biology and even at a very young age new that this was the direction I wanted to take.

Was there anyone who particularly inspired you to do research?

Many people have inspired me but there are two individuals that could be considered as having a real influence: my PhD supervisor Dr Brian Woodward, a pharmacologist whose knowledge as well as his technical expertise were amazing.  Having him as a supervisor was pure luck as the student that he had assigned to the cardiovascular project decided at the last minute to undertake a PhD in neuropharmacology; this left the door open for me to enter the cardiovascular pharmacology field to which I am extremely grateful. The other person was my close friend Dr Jim Downey from the University of South Alabama who I teamed up with as a postdoctoral fellow to undertake studies in cardioprotection, I have remained in this area ever since.  He is a giant in this area and again his knowledge of physiology is remarkable. Every time I talk with him I learn something new!

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I would have to say this is three fold. Firstly, if we are taking about academic achievement, the highlights of my career are the two DSc degrees that I obtained; one from the University of Bath, where I undertook my PhD, and the second DSc (DSc Honorus Causa) I was awarded from the University of Cape Town, both for the advancement of science in the area of cardiovascular disease and treatment.

Secondly, if we are talking about research achievements, then the basic research undertaken in defining what has become known as the Reperfusion Injury Salvage Kinase (RISK) pathway which is now used universally to describe the prosurvival pathway that exists in the heart;  and from a clinical standpoint,  the first study in the world to demonstrate the cardioprotective phenomenon of "preconditioning" in patients.

Finally, to the establishment of the Hatter Cardiovascular Institute (HCI) in the early 1990s, in the basement of the old hospital (where I was told by my then senior colleagues that I had no chance of achieving any success) to our stand alone premises in Chenies Mews. The HCI has become an internationally recognised centre for translational cardiovascular research of which I am immensely proud!

What's one thing you couldn't live without?

The support of my family!