Leicester health researchers recognised with NIHR Senior Investigator Awards

Posted by: Jamie Sharp - Posted on:

A pair of Leicester health researchers have been awarded prestigious National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Senior Investigator awards to advance their healthcare work. 

Professor Laura Gray and Professor James Burton both combine research and teaching at the University of Leicester and become NIHR Senior Investigators.

In addition, Martin Tobin, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Public Health at the University and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences has had his award renewed for a second term. 

Laura Gray is Professor of Medical Statistics and Research Director for the Department of Population Health Sciences along with co-lead of the Biostatistics Research Group. She is the Co-Lead of the Data Innovation for Multiple Long-Term Health Conditions and Ethnic Health theme at the NIHR Leicester BRC.

Her work involves the identification, prevention and management of chronic and multiple long-term conditions (MLTCs), including the development of a ‘Know Your Risk’ tool on the Diabetes UK website, which allows members of the public to assess their risk of having Type 2 diabetes. To date it has been completed by around 3 million people. 

She said: “I’m really proud to have been selected to be a Senior Investigator and to be an ambassador for the NIHR. The existing Senior Investigators include many of my personal role models and I’m very humbled to become part of this prestigious group. “I’m also passionate about integrating meaningful patient and public involvement (PPI) into my methodological research.  It’s challenging but it has become a personal priority for me to develop resources and guidance for other statisticians to improve PPI for statistical methodology research across the NIHR.”

James Burton is an Honorary Consultant Nephrologist and Professor of Renal Medicine and Associate Dean for Clinical Research at the University of Leicester. He is also Clinical Vice-President of the UK Kidney Association.

He leads a bench-to-bedside programme of research that includes early assessment and reduction of cardiovascular risk in patients with chronic kidney disease as well as leading clinical trials to reduce symptom burden and improve the quality of life for people with kidney failure on dialysis. These have shaped national and international guidelines on the management of kidney disease.

He said: “I have been part of the NIHR academy in some way since I was appointed as an NIHR Clinical Lecturer back in 2008 and I feel very proud to have been selected as a Senior Investigator in this latest round.

“I definitely want to continue to undertake high quality research that improves the lives of people with kidney disease but even more than that, I know that this award will enable me to continue to inspire and mentor people to become more active in research, whether they be early career researchers or members of the public.”

Professor James Burton

Professor James Burton

Professor Tobin leads the Genetic Epidemiology Group and co-leads the local EXCEED Study. He also leads a programme of research on the genetics of common, complex diseases and traits, including lung health, COPD, and multimorbidity. 

His work focuses on early career research training, mentorship, public engagement and supporting genomics-driven precision medicine in non-European ancestries. He is Director of a 4-year PhD Programme in Genomic Epidemiology and Public Health Genomics and contributes to advisory boards and national funding panels.

He said “I’m very grateful to the NIHR for this award and for its recognition of the importance of career development and a positive research culture. This and other NIHR funding enables researchers at the University of Leicester to improve health outcomes for all communities.” 

Professor Melanie Davies, CBE, Director of the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, said: “Senior Investigators are among the most prominent and prestigious researchers funded by the NIHR and are considered among the most outstanding leaders of patient and people-based research within the health research community. 

 “We are incredibly proud that Laura, James and Martin have all been recognised, and fortunate to have them contributing to the life-changing work we carry out here in Leicester.”

As well as demonstrating research excellence they will contribute to the NIHR as senior leaders and lead in training and development of the next generation of health researchers.  The award brings with it £20,000 per annum towards the individual’s research for the next four years.  

Professor Tom Robinson, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Life Sciences at the University of Leicester and an NIHR Senior Investigator, said: “It’s a huge honour to be recognised as an NIHR Senior Investigator and testament to the crucial and hard work taking place by both Laura and James – alongside many of our health researchers – to make improvements to patient outcomes and a real difference to people’s lives.  

“I would also like to congratulate Martin for his tireless research efforts which have now seen his award renewed for a further term. 

“My colleagues are all thoroughly deserving of their awards which reinforce the significant NIHR funding that the University receives and the importance of our research to improving health outcomes.”