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Professor Cyrus Cooper OBE, MA, DM, FRCP, FFPH, FMedSci

Director of the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, Vice Dean, Professor of Rheumatology, Honorary Consultant Rheumatologist

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Cyrus Cooper is Professor of Rheumatology and Director of the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit; Vice-Dean of Medicine at the University of Southampton; and Professor of Musculoskeletal Science at the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, University of Oxford.

Professor Cooper graduated from the University of Cambridge and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London in 1980, and completed his residency in 1985 at the Southampton University Hospitals. In 1990, he won an MRC Travelling Fellowship to the Mayo Clinic, USA, where he continued his research in osteoporosis. He returned to the UK in 1992 to take up a position as Senior Lecturer in Rheumatology and MRC Senior Clinical Scientist. He was promoted to the foundation Chair in Rheumatology at the University of Southampton in 1997 while continuing as an MRC Senior Clinical Scientist at the MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit; in 2003 he was appointed Director of the MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton. In 2010, this was reconfigured as the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (until 2020); quinquennial funding for a newly reconfigured MRC Centre has been secured from 2020 to 2025, ensuring continuous personal support for the Director by MRC for over 30 years.

Professor Cooper leads an internationally competitive programme of research into the epidemiology of musculoskeletal disorders, most notably osteoporosis. His key research contributions have been: 1) discovery of the developmental influences which contribute to the risk of osteoporosis and hip fracture in late adulthood; 2) demonstration that maternal vitamin D insufficiency is associated with sub-optimal bone mineral accrual in childhood; 3) characterisation of the definition and incidence rates of vertebral fractures; 4) leadership of large randomised controlled trials of maternal vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy, as preventative strategies against osteoporosis in the offspring; and 5) leadership of national and international randomised controlled trials evaluating the effectiveness of risk stratification in primary and secondary fracture prevention.

Professor Cooper is President of the International Osteoporosis Foundation; Chair of the Versus Arthritis UK Clinical Studies Initiative; Chair of the BHF Project Grants Committee; Vice-Dean at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton Medical School; an NIHR Senior Investigator; and Associate Editor of Osteoporosis International. He has previously served as Chairman of the MRC Population Health Sciences Research Network; Chairman of the Royal Osteoporosis Society of Great Britain; past-President of the Bone Research Society of Great Britain; and has worked on numerous Department of Health, European Community and World Health Organisation committees and working groups. He has published extensively (over 850 research papers; h-index 201) on osteoporosis and rheumatic disorders and pioneered clinical studies on the developmental origins of peak bone mass. He has received the Duchess of Cornwall Award (2011); IOF Pierre Delmas award (2014) and Olof Johnell medal (2017). In 2015, he was awarded an OBE for services to medical research; in 2016 he was appointed as Deputy Lieutenant of Hampshire; and in 2017 a Non-Executive Director of University Hospitals NHS Trust Southampton.


Appointments held


Highly cited

Research interests

Professor Cooper established and continues to lead a directly funded MRC research programme into the Epidemiology of Musculoskeletal Disease. The programme focuses on the following areas: (a) the epidemiology, pathophysiology and prevention of osteoporosis; (b) the epidemiology and natural history of osteoarthritis; (c) the occupational and environmental determinants of soft tissue rheumatic disorders (low back pain and neck/upper limb pain).

The osteoporosis research programme has three broad objectives: (1) to delineate the extent to which the risk of osteoporosis in late adulthood might be programmed by environmental influences during intrauterine and early postnatal life, and to characterize the mechanisms whereby such programming might occur; (2) to characterize the descriptive epidemiology of vertebral and limb fractures; (3) to evaluate the roles of calcium and Vitamin D supplementation in the elderly as immediate preventative strategies against hip fracture.

The two most significant examples of the relevance of this research to patient care and the public health are: (1) the discovery that maternal Vitamin D insufficiency is associated with reduced bone mass in the offspring (Javaid MK et al. Maternal Vitamin D Status During Pregnancy and Childhood Bone Mass at Age 9 Years: A longitudinal study. Lancet 2006;367:36-43). This discovery had a major influence on public health policy (NICE Guidelines on Maternal Nutrition) through a recommendation to optimize vitamin D status during pregnancy; (2) the demonstration that oral vitamin D3 and calcium alone, are ineffective in the secondary prevention of low trauma fractures in elderly people (Grant A et al. Randomised Evaluation of Calcium Or Vitamin D, RECORD): A randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2005;365:1621-1628).

Other examples of how research findings have translated into improvements in health care and public health include:

(a) Accurate characterisation of the risk of fracture among men and women using oral glucocorticoids in the United Kingdom (van Staa TP et al. Use of oral corticosteroids and risk of fractures. J Bone Min Res 2000;15:pp 993-1000). This highly cited manuscript had a major influence on national guidance (Royal College of Physicians, UK) for the prevention of glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis.

(b) Water fluoridation and risk of osteoporotic fracture (Hillier S, Cooper C, Kellingray S, Russell G, Hughes H, Coggon D. Fluoride in drinking water and risk of hip fracture in the UK: A case control study. Lancet 2000;355:265-270). This large study comprised a response to Parliamentary Questions addressing the safety of water fluoridation. It clearly demonstrated that there was no excess risk of osteoporotic fracture associated with fluoridation of drinking water up to 1ppm (part per million) in the United Kingdom.

(c) Occupational physical activity and the risk of hip and knee osteoarthritis (Coggon D et al. Osteoarthritis of the hip and occupational lifting. Am J Epidemiol 1998;147:532-528; Cooper C et al. Risk factors for the incidence and progression of radiographic knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum 2000;43:995-1000). These studies led to alteration in guidance from the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council listing osteoarthritis as an occupational hazard.

(d) Developmental origins of osteoporosis and fracture (Cooper C et al. Osteoporosis 2001;12:623-629; Dennison EM et al. Paediatric Research 2005;57:582-586; Javaid MK et al. J Bone Min Res 2006;21:508-512; Harvey NC et al. J Endocrinol Metab 2008; in press; and Gluckman PD et al. Developmental pathways to future health and disease. New Engl J Med 2008;359:61-73). This body of research confirmed the developmental origins of osteoporosis and fracture; identified potential physiological mechanisms; and informed on potential intervention strategies which are now the basis of randomised controlled trials.

(e) Detection of novel genetic loci for osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, obesity/type 2 diabetes mellitus and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Williams FM et al. Arthritis Rheum 2011;63:708-712; Wang TJ et al. Lancet 2010;376:180-188; Nature Genetics 2010;42:142-148; Repapi E et al. Nature Genetics 2010;42:36-44).

(f) Evaluation of the effectiveness of secondary fracture prevention strategies worldwide (Judge A et al. Age Ageing 2016;45:236-42; Hawley S et al. J Bone Miner Res 2016;31:2008-15).

(g) Demonstration of effectiveness of primary hip fracture prevention using FRAX-based risk assessment to target anti-osteoporosis therapy in primary care (Shepstone L et al. Lancet 2018;391:741-7)

For more information on the work of the MRC LEU, please visit


Human Development and Health

Affiliate Department(s)

Human Development and Physiology

Research project(s)

COntinuous, Mobile Patient Assessment of Rheumatoid Arthritis (COMPARA)

Acupuncture for Back Pain: Evaluating Patient Outcomes and Their Determinants

Identification of perinatal epigenetic markers of later phenotype

Professor Cooper established and led the Bone and Joint Research Programme at the MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, from 1992-2003. Following the retirement of Professor David Barker in 2003, the Unit was reconfigured as an MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, under Professor Cooper’s direction, and in 2010, established as the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit and quinquennial funding extended to 2015. The Unit will continue as an international centre of excellence in epidemiological research which: (a) maintains and develops the long-term cohort studies assembled in Southampton as national resources to explore the developmental origins of adult disease; (b) supports directly funded MRC research programmes into the epidemiology of musculoskeletal ageing; metabolic disorders (obesity and type II diabetes mellitus); and occupational health; (c) permits flexible research support for MRC epidemiological resources and facilities, as needs and opportunities emerge. The Resource Centre was reviewed in December 2009, with successful funding (£14.4 million) obtained for the quinquennium 2010 to 2015.

In 2007, Professor Cooper was appointed to the Chair of Musculoskeletal Sciences, at the University of Oxford; and holds this position concurrently with Directorship of the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton, with our future programmes developing to include research into the aetiology and outcome of osteoarthritis and lower limb arthroplasty. In March 2008, Professor Cooper was co-Principal Investigator on two successful NIHR Biomedical Research Unit bids (Nutrition, Southampton; and Musculoskeletal Sciences, Oxford). His research income over the last quinquennium includes intramural Medical Research Council support to the Epidemiology Resource Centre (£9.8 million); together with adjunctive programme and project grant support from the ARC, BHF, FSA, Colt Foundation, and Research into Ageing (total £4.6 million).

Other senior academic responsibilities include the Chair of the MRC Population Health Sciences Research Network; Chair of the Committee of Scientific Advisers, International Osteoporosis Foundation; and Membership of the BHF Chairs and Programme Grants Committee.

Supervision of Postgraduate Research
  1. PhD thesis. Dr Sarah Crozier. Senior Statistician.
  2. PhD thesis. Dr A Claire Ryall. Physiotherapist.
  3. PhD thesis. Dr Pamela Mahon. Superintendent Sonographer
  4. PhD thesis. Dr Harnish Patel. Walport Clinical Lecturer.
  5. PhD thesis. Dr Katherine Pike, Walport Clinical Lecturer in Paediatrics.
  6. PhD thesis. Dr Holly Syddall. Senior Statistician.
  7. PhD thesis. The epidemiology of grip strength of older people in a range of healthcare settings. Dr Helen Roberts.
  8. PhD thesis. Dr Megan Jarman. Research Fellow.
  9. PhD thesis. Dr Christina Vogel (nee Black). Senior Research Fellow.
  10. PhD thesis. Dr Mark Edwards. Clinical Lecturer in Rheumatology.
  11. PhD thesis. Dr Jose Eduardo Perez Mojica. Investigation of the mechanisms underlying the effect of oleic acid and docosahexaenoic acid on DNA methylation in Jurkat cells.
  12. PhD thesis. Water fluoridation and hip fracture. Dr Sharon Hillier.
  13. DM thesis. Occupational risk factors for meniscal injury. Dr Paul Baker, Faculty of Occupational Medicine.
  14. PhD thesis. Growth in infancy and bone loss in adulthood. Dr Elaine Dennison, Wellcome Research Fellow.
  15. PhD thesis. Prevalence and impact of disorders of the neck and upper limb. Dr Karen Walker-Bone, ARC Clinical Research Fellow.
  16. PhD thesis. Diagnostic classification of disorders of the upper limb. Dr Isabel Reading, Colt Research Fellow.
  17. PhD thesis. Maternal body composition, nutrition, and bone growth in the neonate. Dr M. Kassim Javaid, ARC Clinical Research Fellow.
  18. MD thesis. Health status of adults with chronic arthritis since childhood: a clinical, functional and psychosocial assessment. Dr Jonathan Packham, Faculty of Medicine.
  19. PhD thesis. Early life determinants of skeletal growth in children: a longitudinal study. Dr Nicholas Harvey, MRC Clinical Research Fellow.
  20. PhD thesis. Diet, physical activity and bone development. Dr Zoe Cole.
  21. PhD thesis. Physical performance in older people. Dr Helen Martin.
  22. PhD thesis. Developmental origins of sarcopenia. Dr Harnish Patel.
Senior Academic Responsibilities

(2006 to current)

  1. Associate Director of Clinical Research, University of Southampton School of Medicine, 2006-current.
  2. Professional Practice Committee, American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, 2003-2007.
  3. Member, Scientific Programme Committee, World Congress on Osteoporosis, 2004-2006.
  4. Chair, Scientific Programme Committee, World Congress on Osteoporosis, 2008-current.
  5. Member, BHF Chairs and Programme Grants Committee, 2003-2008.
  6. MRC Representative, Specialist Training Authority of the Medical Royal Colleges, 2004-2007.
  7. Chairman, Board of Trustees of the National Osteoporosis Society of Great Britain, 2003-2007.
  8. Member, Academic Careers Committee, Academy of Medical Sciences, 2004-2008.
  9. Chair, Committee of Scientific Advisors, International Osteoporosis Foundation, 2006-current.
  10. Member, Physiological Sciences and Clinical Sciences Board, Medical Research Council, 2006-2010.
  11. Chair-Elect, MRC Population Health Sciences Research Network, 2009-current.
  12. President, Bone Research Society, 2008-current.
  13. F.I.R.M.O. External Scientific Committee, University of Florence, 2009 – current.
  14. External Adviser, NIHR BRU on Ageing and Age-related Diseases, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 2009 – current.
  15. Vice-Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, 2011 – current.
  16. Member, Sectional Committee, Academy of Medical Sciences, 2012-current.
  17. Sub-Panel Membership REF 2014, Clinical Medicine UoA 1, 2012-current.
  18. Member, International Advisory Board, Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 2013 – current.
  19. Chair, BHF Project Grants Committee, 2013 – 2017.
  20. Elected to Fellowship, Royal Society of Biology, 2016.
  21. Vice-Chair, Arthritis Research UK Treatment Subcommittee, 2016 – current
  22. President, International Osteoporosis Foundation; 2017- current
  23. Trustee, Board of the Medical Research Foundation; 2017 – current
Editorial Responsibilities

1. Editorial Board
a) Associate Editor, Osteoporosis International, 2006 - current
b) Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 1994-1999
c) Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 1993-1998
d) Bone, 1997 - current
e) Osteoporosis International, 1998 - 2005
f) Arthritis & Rheumatism: Arthritis Care and Research, 2001 - current

2. External Referee
New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, BMJ, Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, Arthritis and Rheumatism, British Journal of Rheumatology, Osteoporosis International, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, American Journal of Epidemiology, Bone, Calcified Tissue International, Occupational Medicine, Bone and Mineral, American Journal of Public Health.

Personal Awards/Achievements

Clinical Exhibition, University of Cambridge 1977-1980
ICCRH Young Investigator Award 1989
Norwich Eaton Young Investigator Award 1990
ASBMR Young Investigator Award 1991
BMA Medical Book Competition 1999
Medical Book of the Year, 2004
Hospital Doctor of the Year – Rheumatology, 2005
Clinical Excellence Award (Platinum), 2009
NIHR Senior Investigator Award, 2009
HRH Duchess of Cornwall Award, 2009
BSR Heberden Oration, 2011
IOF Medal of Achievement, 2012
Clinical Excellence Award (Platinum) renewal 2013
British Society for Rheumatology: Outstanding Practice Award, 2013
NIHR Senior Investigator Award Renewal, 2014
ESCEO-IOF Pierre Delmas Prize, 2014
Officer of the Order of the British Empire, 2015
Thompson Reuters Highly Sited Award, 2015-2018
Deputy Lieutenant of Hampshire, 2016
Clarivates Highly Cited Resarcher, 2017
IOF Olof Johnell Science Award, 2018
Charles Dent, British Bone Research Society, 2018
Academy of Medical Sciences, Singapore, 2018

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