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Top diabetes professor at University of Exeter wins international prize

A diabetes expert who has “transformed our understanding, diagnosis and treatment” of the condition has won a top international award.
Professor Andrew Hattersley (pictured) is only the second person to be awarded the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD)-Novo Nordisk Foundation Diabetes Prize for Excellence.
Hattersley, who works at the University of Exeter Medical School, has been recognised for the research he has done into monogenic diabetes, a genetic form of the condition.
Also a diabetes consultant at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, Hattersley said: “It is a great honour to receive this prestigious award. I have been very lucky to work with superb colleagues in Exeter over the past 21 years.
“This award recognises their outstanding efforts as much as my own. It has been very exciting to see the science of gene discovery have a direct impact on patient care.”
The prize is awarded in collaboration between the EASD and the Novo Nordisk Foundation.
Professor Juleen Zierath, president of the EASD, said: “Andrew Hattersley personifies a complete clinician scientist who has transformed our understanding, diagnosis and treatment of monogenic diabetes. He is an obvious recipient of this prestigious prize.”
The award will be presented at the 52st EASD Annual Meeting in Munich, Germany on September 14 when Professor Hattersley will give a lecture to the 20,000 delegates.
In 1995, when Professor Hattersley first arrived in Exeter, there was no genetics laboratory on the hospital site where he was working, so he set one up along with molecular geneticist Professor Sian Ellard.
The unit was used to combine both research and NHS diagnostics before they decided to specialise in rare genetic types of diabetes.
Diabetes specialist nurse Professor Maggie Shepherd and Professor Tim Frayling joined the team and together they established a diagnostic genetic service that provides testing for patients in the UK and for 87 other countries.
Monogenic diabetes occurs because one of the three billion bases in a patient’s genetic code is altered.
The University compared the difficulty of trying to find the cause by “looking for one spelling mistake in a library full of books”.
Despite that, the Exeter team discovered the single altered base for 15 different genetic types of diabetes.
Their findings have led to the recognition of new diabetes sub-types that have unique clinical features, with specific requirements for their treatment and clinical care.
One of the most significant discoveries they have found is that most patients can control their blood glucose better by tablets, instead of relying on insulin injections six months after their diagnosis, which had been the normal path of treatment.

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