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Professor Ellard has received an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours

Pioneering genomics researcher recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours

An Exeter clinical scientist who has helped to transform the lives of thousands of patients worldwide has been recognised by the Queen in her latest Birthday Honours.   

Professor Sian Ellard, Professor of Genomic Medicine at the University of Exeter Medical School and the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital’s (RD&E) Consultant Clinical Scientist, receives an OBE in the prestigious awards.

Professor Ellard has pioneered the use of diagnostic genetic testing in mainstream NHS clinical practice both regionally and nationally. She now leads a ground-breaking genomics programme set to transform healthcare for generations to come. She and her 50-strong team at the state-of-the-art Exeter Genetics Laboratory have discovered 16 of the 26 new genetic subtypes of diabetes over the past 15 years. With colleague Professor Andrew Hattersley, their biggest breakthrough was in neonatal diabetes, where finding the genetic cause led patients to stop insulin injections and get better glucose control with a simple tablet treatment. Using new DNA sequencing technology, she has created a new test for couples with pregnancies affected with rare lethal disorders and has developed the first NHS-wide exome sequencing service for rare disease.

Her leadership has helped to move into routine clinical care. This has resulted in in many thousands of patients now being tested annually for genetic disorders and receiving more effective treatment, improving quality of life. Professor Ellard leads the Exeter-based South West Genomic Medicine Centre across seven NHS trusts and has a pivotal role in the national 100,000 Genomes Project, which promises to unlock the genetic secrets of many major diseases and pioneer future treatments.

An accomplished international speaker, Professor Ellard is a passionate communicator of science to expert and non-expert audiences. Last year, she ran the Great West Run in aid of Exeter’s FORCE Cancer Charity.

On receiving her honour, Professor Ellard said: “I am delighted and honoured to receive this OBE. I would like to pay tribute to all my colleagues who have done such a superb job from the initial research discoveries to changing clinical practice through new genomic testing. I’ve been very privileged to work with so many fantastic patients and families over the years – they have been a major inspiration.”

“Genomic research has already shown how it can change lives and has the potential to transform the way we diagnose and treat illness for future generations. It’s an enormously exciting time and I’m very proud to be part of it.”

Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice Chancellor of the University of Exeter, said: “I’m so delighted for Sian on this outstanding and very well deserved recognition. She is absolutely dedicated to research that has a direct benefit to patients, and we’re all very proud that she and the wider team have made a tremendous impact in their field, improving lives worldwide.”

Suzanne Tracey, RD&E Chief Executive, said: “Sian has made an outstanding contributions to health and social care locally, nationally and internationally. Her expertise has improved the lives of countless patients and their families and I am thrilled her hard work, vision and leadership have been recognised at the highest level.”

Date: 7 June 2018