A UK diabetes professor has been presented with Belgium’s highest scientific award for his discoveries that have changed the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of genetic forms of the condition.
As reported in The Diabetes Times, Professor Andrew Hattersley, Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Exeter and diabetes consultant at the Royal Devon & Exeter NS Foundation Trust, has won the Baillet Latour Health Prize 2020, which supports outstanding scientific, academic and artistic achievements.
Since 1979, the Fund has awarded the Baillet Latour Health Prize to a scientist for their contribution to medical research, considered to be the highest scientific award, worth €250,000, in Belgium and open to scientists worldwide.
Prof Hattersley said: “Scientific breakthrough these days comes by teams of experts working brilliantly together and not from any single individual’s efforts. All the work cited for this award has been done by an amazing team of scientists and healthcare professionals working at the University of Exeter over the last 25 years. It has been a great pleasure and privilege to work with such amazing colleagues.”
Together with his Exeter colleague, Professor Sian Ellard, Prof Hattersley founded a genetics laboratory, now recognised as the world leader in the diagnosis and research of monogenic diabetes – a type of diabetes caused by a mutation in a single gene.
One breakthrough was the integration of beta cell science into patient treatment. After the Exeter lab had shown mutations in the potassium channel of beta cells were the most common cause of neonatal diabetes, Prof Hattersley demonstrated that these patients could replace their insulin injections with sulfonylurea tablets and remarkably improve blood sugar control.
The team offered free genetic tests to anyone in the world diagnosed with diabetes before the age of six months and have helped thousands of patients who otherwise would be on insulin injections for life.