UCL's Great Britons
6 November 2007
As the search begins for the Morgan Stanley Great Britons of 2007, a handful of members of the UCL community have been noted as suitable candidates.
The Great Britons website mentions the achievements of UCL alumnus Anthony Gormley (UCL Slade School of Fine Art 1979), creator of the 'Angel of the North' and UCL's Dr Rachel Batterham (UCL Medicine) as a suitable candidate for her work in identifying the brain circuits that control how much we eat - research that could have dramatic impact on the treatment of obesity and eating disorders.
Journalists at 'The Telegraph' have chosen their favourites, including three UCL ophthalmologists and a distinguished UCL alumnus in their 'Science and Innovation' section of 'brilliant Brits'.
The article states: "Leading the field must be Sir Martin Evans of Cardiff University, the father of research on stem cells, which show great promise in new treatments for heart disease, Parkinson's and more besides. Sir Martin recently shared the Nobel prize for medicine for his work on genetic alteration of rodents to replicate human disease which has revolutionised efforts to find out what genes do."
Sir Martin completed his PhD at UCL in 1969 on the genetic control of vertebrate development, and went on to hold teaching and research posts in UCL's anatomy and embryology department until 1979.
The article goes on to name a further three UCL researchers: "Britain has many leading medical researchers and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London, boasts no fewer than three pioneering efforts to treat blindness. One team, led by Prof Pete Coffey, is preparing to carry out stem cell transplants into the eye. Another, led by Prof Robin Ali, is testing gene transplants. And a third, led by Dr Francesca Cordeiro, has uncovered a link between Alzheimer's and glaucoma, which opens new opportunities for diagnosis and treatment."
Professor Coffey is leading the London Project, working to develop a stem cell treatment to cure age-related macular degeneration - a currently irreversible condition that affects a quarter of people over the age of 60 in the UK and 14 million people worldwide.
Dr Cordeiro and her team recently discovered that a combination of treatments developed for Alzheimer's disease also has the potential to treat glaucoma, the major cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. Dr Cordeiro believes that this knowledge may mean that the eye could also be used to test potential treatments for Alzheimer's disease.
Professor Ali is conducting the first clinical trial with to test a revolutionary treatment for blindness in children, which could have a significant impact on future treatments for eye disease. He said: "We have been developing gene therapy for eye disease for almost 15 years but until now we have been evaluating the technology only in the laboratory. Testing it for the first time in patients is very important and exciting, and represents a huge step towards establishing gene therapy for the treatment of many different eye conditions."
Image: Eye with age-related macular degeneration