UCL News


UCL academic awarded NIHR Research Professorship

22 November 2023

Professor Shonit Punwani (Centre for Medical Imaging, UCL Division of Medicine) is among six researchers to be awarded National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Research Professorships to carry out science that aims to improve the health of the nation.

Shonit Punwani awarded NIHR Research Professorship

The NIHR Research Professorships scheme funds and supports research leaders of the future. It aims to strengthen and benefit health, public health and care research leadership.

This year, the leading researchers will receive five-year awards of up to £2 million. They will receive a package of extensive support, including three support positions and access to a leadership and development programme.

Professor Punwani’s project will assess new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies to transform prostate cancer care.

He said: “Prostate cancer remains a leading cause of death in men in the UK, with almost 16% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer after the disease has spread. I’m thrilled to be awarded an NIHR Research Professorship, which will allow me to help implement new MRI technologies into clinical practice to transform prostate cancer management and outcomes.

“The research will target three points in the prostate cancer management pathway. The first is in screening, where developing fast and reliable MRI could help to find men with early disease before it has spread. The second is the use of novel MRI methods that can analyse tissue microstructure to enable us to better determine which men should undergo an invasive biopsy once a lesion is found on MRI, which will hopefully reduce the number of men who undergo an unnecessary biopsy.

“The third, and perhaps most important, is the study of prostate cancer metabolism as a potential indicator of aggressive disease. Here the objective is to determine whether imaging metabolism using MRI can help us to separate aggressive from non-aggressive cancers at an early stage, and thereby avoid overtreatment of men diagnosed with prostate cancer.”

Since 2011, 66 people have been successful in gaining NIHR Research Professorships. Many have gone on to become senior research leaders. This includes Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care and CEO of the NIHR.

Professor Waljit Dhillo, Scientific Director for Research Capacity and Capabilities at NIHR, said: “I am delighted and honoured to welcome the latest group of outstanding researchers to the NIHR Research Professorship scheme. Their expertise in health and care research will help improve people's health and wellbeing.

“The NIHR Research Professorship is one of the most prestigious awards we offer. I look forward to seeing the difference the research will make to the lives of people and communities across the UK.”

The full announcement for this year’s awards is available on the NIHR website.



Media contact 

Dr Matt Midgley

E: m.midgley [at] ucl.ac.uk