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National Lifesaver Andrew Hattersley

World-leading Exeter diabetes Professor named among Nation’s Lifesavers

World-renowned diabetes researcher Professor Andrew Hattersley has been named as one of ‘The Nation’s Lifesavers’ in the Made@Uni campaign.

The award recognises his research into causes, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes which has improved the lives of people with diabetes across the world.

Professor Hattersley, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “It’s an honour to be included in the list for Universities UK’s National Lifesavers campaign. This award is testament to the whole Exeter diabetes research team whose work over the past 25 years has improved diabetes diagnosis and care. We’re proud our work has helped so many people with diabetes but we will keep working hard until all patients have the right diagnosis and optimal treatment.”

The Exeter genetics laboratory which Professor Hattersley established at The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital with Professor Sian Ellard in 1995 is now the international laboratory for identifying and diagnosing genetic subtypes of diabetes. By finding the single crucial change in the three billion pieces of genetic code that causes the diabetes, they have described 17 previously unrecognised genetic subtypes.  The team has gone on to turn these scientific breakthroughs into improved diagnosis and treatment with direct benefits to patients.

Many of these patients have stopped insulin injections which were expected to be life-long. All babies born with diabetes used to require five insulin injections a day but after Professor Hattersley and his team found that half of these patients have a special type of diabetes and showed they can have better blood sugar control by being treated with a simple tablet revolutionising life for the patients and their families. The Exeter team have also shown most common genetic subtype of familial diabetes care also very responsive to a specific tablet, allowing them to stop insulin. These discoveries have global benefits, and have changed national and international clinical guidelines. The Exeter lab has provided diagnostic testing for patients from 103 countries and has established international educational programmes on diagnosis and treatment for clinicians.

Professor Hattersley, also a diabetes consultant at the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, is also having impact in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The Exeter team has recently developed a test which uses C-peptide to assess a patient’s insulin level, leading to far more accurate diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. This is now being rolled out in parts of the NHS.

Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter, said: “Huge congratulations to Professor Hattersley on being selected as a National Lifesaver by Universities UK. We’re incredibly proud that his research into diabetes diagnosis, care and prevention has shown real benefits to the health of patients worldwide. Professor Hattersley is highly deserving of this award.”

The Nation’s Lifesaver campaign, coordinated by Universities UK, is designed to raise awareness of the impact that universities have on people, lives and communities across the UK. They want to demonstrate universities are more than places of study and they have a huge impact on people, lives and communities up and down the country.


Following a recent major funding award led by Prof Hattersley, our Diabetes Centre of Excellence is now expanding substantially, with a number of opportunities for talented and passionate academic individuals. Join us and apply your expertise in Artificial Intelligence, Immunology, Cell Biology, Bayesian Statistics, Experimental Medicine or Diabetes, to understand the underlying mechanisms of disease and improve patient treatment and care.

If you are excited by the opportunity to apply your expertise in novel approaches to investigate diabetes and join a world-renowned team, visit the Exeter diabetes website or email

Follow #ExeterDiabetes on Twitter for more information about the research being carried out at the University.

Date: 14 May 2019