UCL Population Health Sciences


Alumni Spotlight: Dr Panicos Shangaris, Prenatal Genetics and Fetal Medicine MSc

9 April 2024

We speak to Panicos, an alumnus from the Prenatal Genetics and Fetal Medicine MSc (now called the Reproductive Genetics and Fetal Medicine MSc).

Panicos headshot

Where is home?


What is your fondest memory from your time at UCL?

My fondest memory from my time at UCL centres around the collaborative and communal spirit fostered during my coursework and research. Specifically, during my MSc, a particular coursework assignment required us to work in groups and prepare a presentation on a chosen subject. This experience was delightful for me, not only for the intellectual challenge it presented but also for the opportunity it provided to engage deeply with my peers. The process of brainstorming ideas, discussing various perspectives, and collaboratively refining our presentation was incredibly rewarding. Beyond the academic collaboration, the social events we organized both during my MSc and PhD years added a rich layer of community and friendship to our rigorous academic pursuits. These events allowed us to unwind, build lasting friendships, and create a supportive network that I value to this day. 

Please tell us a bit about the work you are doing now.

My group at King's College London is actively working on prenatal therapy and pregnancy immunology research. We are committed to pioneering advancements in treating and understanding sickle cell disease (SCD) through prenatal interventions. Our approach targets this severe condition from its earliest stages, aiming to significantly enhance patient outcomes and elevate the quality of life for those affected.

In addition to our focus on sickle cell disease, we are also deeply involved in exploring the immunology of pregnancy, particularly emphasising the critical role of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in influencing pregnancy outcomes. Our research endeavours are dedicated to decoding the complex immunological interactions during pregnancy, aiming to shed light on their implications for maternal and fetal health. Our findings have consistently underscored the vital importance of Tregs in maintaining an immune equilibrium that supports a successful pregnancy.

The work undertaken by my group aims to offer valuable insights and develop innovative therapeutic strategies that have the potential to revolutionize prenatal care. Our commitment is to improve the health outcomes of individuals with sickle cell disease and other prenatal conditions from the earliest stages of life. We are passionate about pushing the boundaries of knowledge in maternal and fetal medicine by investigating the possibilities of prenatal therapies and the immune dynamics of pregnancy.

For further details about our research and to follow our latest developments, please visit our website

How did your UCL degree help you get to where you are now?

My degree from University College London (UCL) in Fetal Medicine and Prenatal Genetics was pivotal in shaping my career path and helping me reach my current position. The rigorous curriculum and the exposure to state-of-the-art research at UCL provided me with a solid foundation in the complexities of fetal medicine and the genetic aspects of prenatal care. The distinction I achieved attested to my dedication and academic prowess and opened doors to further academic and professional opportunities.

The knowledge and skills I acquired during my Master’s program were instrumental in pursuing a PhD at the same esteemed institution. Under the guidance of Professor Anna David and Professor Paolo De Coppi, my doctoral research focused on treating genetic blood disorders through prenatal interventions, such as stem cell transplantation and gene therapy. This experience deepened my understanding of fetal medicine and honed my research skills, enabling me to contribute meaningful insights to the field.

Joining King’s College London (KCL) as an NIHR Clinical Lecturer, my background in fetal medicine and prenatal genetics was crucial in carving out a niche in Maternal and Fetal Medicine. The expertise I developed at UCL has been fundamental in guiding my research work, particularly in prenatal therapy for sickle cell disease and the immunology of pregnancy. It has also facilitated my role in supervising PhD, MSc, and BSc students, allowing me to pass on the knowledge and inspire the next generation of researchers in the field.

What have been your career highlights?

Completing my MSc with Distinction and pursuing a PhD: My doctoral research at University College London (UCL) on treating genetic blood disorders through prenatal interventions was a profound journey. Working under the guidance of Professor Anna David and Professor Paolo De Coppi, I explored the potential of stem cell transplantation and gene therapy in fetuses. This work contributed to the field and laid the groundwork for future research.

Joining King’s College London (KCL): Transitioning to KCL as an NIHR Clinical Lecturer was a significant step in my career. Specializing in Maternal and Fetal Medicine, I had the opportunity to work at prestigious hospitals such as Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital, furthering my clinical and research skills in a highly stimulating environment.

Leading  Research in Prenatal Therapy for Sickle Cell Disease: My work in advancing prenatal therapy for sickle cell disease has been particularly rewarding. We aim to improve outcomes and quality of life for affected individuals by targeting this condition from its earliest stages. This research has the potential to change the treatment paradigm for genetic disorders.

Investigating the Immunology of Pregnancy: Delving into the immunological aspects of pregnancy, especially the role of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in pregnancy outcomes, has been another highlight. Our findings are crucial for understanding how a balanced immune environment supports successful pregnancies, paving the way for new therapeutic approaches.

Supervising PhD, MSc, and BSc Students: Mentoring the next generation of scientists and clinicians has been incredibly fulfilling in my career. Sharing knowledge and inspiring students to pursue their interests in fetal medicine and prenatal genetics continues to be a rewarding experience.

Securing Funding from Prestigious Organizations: Receiving support from the Wellcome Trust, the Academy of Medical Sciences, NIHR, and the Fetal Medicine Foundation has been instrumental in facilitating our research projects. These achievements recognize the value of our work and enable us to push forward with our innovative research.

Collaborations with Esteemed Colleagues: Working closely with leading figures in the field, such as Professors Kypros Nicolaides, John Strouboulis, and Giovanna Lombardi, has been a highlight. These collaborations have enriched my research and clinical practice, allowing me to contribute to significant maternal and fetal health advancements.

What would be your advice for current students?

My advice to current students embarking on a journey in medicine, research, or any related discipline is to cultivate a strong foundation of curiosity and dedication. 
Embrace every learning opportunity with an open mind and a proactive attitude. The medical and scientific education path is challenging but richly rewarding; therefore, resilience and persistence are key. Engage deeply with your studies, actively seek out mentorship, and immerse yourself in research opportunities early on to gain practical experience and insight into your field of interest. Networking with peers and professionals can open doors to collaborations and future opportunities. Try to balance hard work with self-care to maintain your well-being throughout this demanding but fulfilling journey. Lastly, keep sight of your passion and why you chose this path—they will be your guiding light through challenges and your motivation to contribute meaningfully to advancing health and science.

If you are interested in the Reproductive Genetics and Fetal Medicine MSc, find out more.