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The University of Southampton

First University of Southampton academic awarded prestigious NIHR Research Professorship

Published: 30 April 2018
Professor Diana Baralle
First NIHR Research Professorship awarded Professor Diana Baralle

Southampton Professor of Genomic Medicine and Consultant in Genetic Medicine Diana Baralle is the first University of Southampton academic to be awarded a prestigious National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Professorship.

Diana leads the MSc Genomic Medicine programme at the University, and heads up a research group investigating the role of RNA and splicing in genetic disease. She is also a consultant in clinical genetics at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

The five-year Professorship recognises Diana’s work in maximising the potential of genomics for patient care. The £1.8m award will allow her to extend her research into translational genomics, diagnostic testing and personalised medicine.

NIHR Research Professorships aim to promote effective translation of research and strengthen research leadership at the highest academic levels. They enable outstanding academics to spend five years dedicated to translational research, and to develop capacity in areas critical to accelerating the transfer of research ideas into improved health.

In its citation, NIHR states: ‘Genomic sequencing technologies have the acknowledged potential to improve diagnostic accuracy, stratify disease and personalise treatment for immediate patient benefit. Before this can happen, physicians must assess the relevance of the sequence change to disease. Diana will develop pathways for the interpretation of genetic variation in human disease using RNA technologies, transforming clinical care.’

The Professorship will enable Diana to assemble a team of experts in this field of genomics, placing Southampton at the forefront of national research.

Diana said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have been awarded this prestigious professorship that will enable me to improve patients’ lives by making new and accurate diagnoses, and to facilitate the development of personalised medicine and future therapies.

“These are unprecedented and exciting times in genomic medicine with technological advances opening up significant new opportunities in genomics and transcriptomics.

“This award will allow me to improve the utility of genomic data by looking at how a gene is processed, and how this processing may go wrong to increase susceptibility to disease. When genes are sequenced, millions of differences are seen between one individual and another. The challenge with this large amount of data is in interpreting which differences are clinically important and which represent normal variation.

“I will incorporate new gene technologies into diagnostic testing, making new diagnoses that were not possible before, and facilitating personalised medicine.”

Dean of Medicine, Professor Iain Cameron said: “I am delighted that Diana has received this accolade from the NIHR. It is a reflection of the quality of her work and her commitment to translating discoveries from the clinic to the bedside. We already have a strong track record in human genetics and medical genomics and this Professorship will keep Southampton at the cutting-edge of this rapidly advancing field.”


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