Leicester has a strong tradition in excellence in diabetes care dating back 60 years to the pioneering work of Doctor Joan Walker, who established the first community diabetes clinics and the first diabetes research nurses in the UK. But it was only in 2003 that Professor Melanie Davies started in clinical research with the support of one nurse. Since then, Professor Davies and colleague Professor Kamlesh Khunti have developed a talented and diverse team of over 140 researchers, clinicians and educationalists working together on an innovative research portfolio.
November 2013 saw the opening of the world-renowned Leicester Diabetes Centre (LDC), hosted within a former clinical space at the Leicester General Hospital, and with excellent access to patients, particularly Black and Minority Ethnic groups from the east side of Leicester City. The LDC now forms one of the largest facilities in Europe for conducting first class clinical research in diabetes and other long-term conditions, with a floor space of over 4000m2. This physical space has facilitated the co-location of our growing number of research, academic, technical, administrative and clinical staff, providing the opportunity to work together as one team.
The academic nucleus of this team is the Diabetes Research Unit (DRU), created in late 2012 within the College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology at University of Leicester. Working closely with local NHS organisations – University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (UHL), Primary Care, and local GP practices, has inspired productive partnerships to flourish. This collaboration between academia and the NHS has directly led to dedicated innovation and cutting edge care for the people of Leicester City, Leicestershire County and Rutland.
The LDC has attracted a range of prestigious NIHR funded infrastructure and other funding notably from the British Heart Foundation, European Union, Medical Research Council and Diabetes UK. The LDC also hosts a local CLAHRC (Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care) and BRC (Biomedical Research Centre) in Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity.
The Leicester Clinical Trial Unit (LCTU) sits within the LDC and hosts a team of clinical trial specialists who support research across a range of therapeutic areas to develop, design and deliver high quality research grants, applications and trials.
Uniquely, for the UK, the LDC can now facilitate rapid progress across both translational research gaps – between basic science and applied health research, and between applied research and implementation.
This enables our team to move seamlessly from the generation of new ideas to the development and evolution of new therapeutic approaches and health care tools/systems, and beyond to the implementation of these approaches into routine clinical care. This integrated approach will rapidly reduce the time taken to move from experimental proof of concept studies into improved patient care.
Kamlesh Khunti is Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine, University of Leicester, UK. He leads a research group undertaking research into the early identification and interventions in people with diabetes. His work has influenced national and international guidelines on screening and management of people with diabetes.
He is Director of East Midlands CLAHRC and Co-Director for the South East Midlands Diabetes Research Network, Director of a Clinical Trial Unit. He is a principal investigator on several major studies. He is currently an advisor to the Department of Health’s National Screening Committee on Vascular Risk, Clinical Advisor for the Diabetes NICE-led QOF Panel, Secretary of the Primary Care Study Group of the European Society of Diabetes (EASD). He is past Chair of the Department of Health-RCGP Committee on Classification of Diabetes, Chair of the NICE Guidelines on Prevention of Diabetes. He is Co-Director of the Diabetes MSc at Leicester University and the BMJ Diabetes Diploma. In addition, he is co-Director of the Diabetes MSc at Leicester University and the BMJ Diabetes Diploma.
Emer studied biochemistry at Sussex University graduating in 2004. She then moved to Leicester to study for her PhD investigating the interrelationship between obstructive sleep apnoea, insulin resistance and inflammation. Emer then secured a research post within the Leicester Diabetes Centre and is heavily involved in protocol development, study coordination and management. Emer also specialises in grant writing, lecturing on sleep research and energy regulation on the Diabetes MSc. She supervises both PhD students and MSc dissertations. Her main research interests lie in preventative medicine, sleep and metabolism.
Dr Deirdre Harrington is a Lecturer in Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Health at the University of Leicester, UK. Dr Harrington was awarded her Ph.D. in 2010 from the University of Limerick, Ireland in the area of Physical Activity and Health. During that time she published on physical activity measurement using the activPAL and her earliest publications surrounded school-based interventions for inactive adolescent females. In late 2010, she joined the Physical Activity Epidemiology Lab at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, USA. Under the mentorship of Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, she expanded her interest to body composition assessment in children and sedentary behaviour epidemiology. She was a member of the Pennington
Biomedical co-ordinating centre for ISCOLE, a study of obesity, lifestyle and the environment in over 6000 children across 12 countries and has continued to publish in the area of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and health in children and adults.
In 2013, Dr. Harrington joined the Diabetes Research Centre at the University of Leicester and is an Associate faculty member of the NIHR Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit. Here she is developing a research agenda around diabetes in young people and ways in which increasing physical activity and decreasing sedentary behaviour may be used in prevention of this condition.
Dr Harrington has published in journals such as JAMA, Obesity, Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise and Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Most recently, as the chair of the Research Work Group of Ireland’s Report Card on the Physical Activity of Children and Youth, she launched Ireland’s first Report Card along with 14 other countries globally
Laura is a Senior Lecturer of Population and Public Health Sciences at the University of Leicester. Laura gives senior statistical support to the research carried out within the Diabetes Research Centre. Laura led the development of the Leicester Self-Assessment score, a
questionnaire which assesses diabetes risk – this has now been completed by over 200,000 people on the Diabetes UK website (https://www.diabetes.org.uk/Riskscore/) and is available
in Boots and Tesco pharmacies across the UK. It is also recommended by NICE. In 2011 this project won the Quality in Care Diabetes Award for the best early detection initiative. This work is internationally recognised, in 2012, Laura was awarded a Santander Travel Fellowship to derive a risk score for use in Portugal and in 2013 received an EFSD Albert Renold Fellowship to work with Prof Stephen Colagiuri at the University of Sydney to develop a global risk score.
Laura is also interested in the design and analysis of clinical trials and evidence synthesis.
Professor Melanie Davies, MB ChB, MD, FRCP, is an Honorary Consultant Diabetologist in
the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Leicester, UK and Professor of Diabetes
Medicine at the University of Leicester. She trained in Sheffield and then completed her
training in Cambridge, Ipswich and Leicester. Her research work is around the cause of Type
2 Diabetes, screening and prevention of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, and self management,
structured education and new therapies including the incretin based therapies.
Melanie Davies is a clinician with over 25 years experience. She is an NIHR Senior
Investigator, one of only a handful in diabetes in the UK, Director of a Clinical
Trial Unit, Director of the Diabetes Research Network in the South East Midlands
and PI on a number of large global studies in the field of diabetes, obesity and
cardiovascular disease. Including 4T, ORIGIN, AT.LANTUS and DESMOND.
She has been an expert for NICE on a number of their guidelines groups.
She has published over 300 original articles including in high impact journals such
as Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine and the BMJ. She has over 350
published abstracts and 10 book chapters including Co-Editor of the diabetes
section in the ‘Oxford Textbook of Endocrinology and Diabetes’ in 2011.
In the last five years has been awarded over £30,000,000 of external reviewed grant funding.
Dr Charlotte Edwardson is a Lecturer in Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and
Health at the University of Leicester. Dr Edwardson studied at Loughborough University
between 2001-2010 where she was awarded a BSc in Applied Sports Science, MSc
in Physical Activity and Health and PhD in Physical Activity in Young People.
Alongside her PhD Dr Edwardson worked as a Research Associate for five years
for the Institute of Youth Sport at Loughborough University where she specialised
in the evaluation of physical activity initiatives in young people. Following this she
worked as a Project Manager at both Loughborough University and the Leicester
Diabetes Centre where she focused on developing and evaluating physical activity and
sedentary behaviour interventions in adults with a high risk of type 2 diabetes.
Dr Edwardson joined the University of Leicester at the beginning of 2013. Her current
research work focuses on understanding patterns of physical activity and sedentary
behaviour in order to inform interventions, developing and evaluating physical activity
and sedentary behaviour interventions in a range of population groups and objectively
measured physical activity and sedentary behaviour. She provides project management
and academic input to lifestyle related projects within the Diabetes Research
Centre, Leicester Diabetes Centre, Leicester-Loughborough Biomedical Research
Unit, the NIHR CLAHRC East Midlands and the Leicester Clinical Trials Unit.
Dr Edwardson has published in a range of peer reviewed journals in the area
of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and health in young people and adults
and has been successful in attracting research grants from prestigious funding
bodies such as the Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research and Department of Health.
Dr Tom Yates works within the Diabetes Research Centre, University of Leicester, and is a leading physical activity researcher. He leads a broad portfolio of physical activity research, including the Walking Away from Type 2 Diabetes programme which is now delivered within primary care nationally and internationally. Dr Yates is also a core member of the NIHR Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Centre where ongoing research is investigating how physical activity can be used as a therapy in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. Dr Yates has published widely, including in the Lancet, and holds several prestigious research grants.
Heather has worked as a Nurse Consultant at University Hospitals of Leicester for past 10
years, working collaboratively with primary care trusts to improve diabetes services across
Leicestershire. The last 28 years of her nursing career have been spent working in the
field of Diabetes. This was provisionally in Nottingham and Derby, and now in Leicester.
More recently she moved into a Nurse Consultant role in NIHR Collaborative Leadership
in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC). Her role is one of leadership, vision
and strategic management and she leads a diverse team of healthcare professionals and
researchers from a variety of backgrounds. Heather’s research interests are in gaining
research funds to develop and test structured education programmes which support selfmanagement
in people with diabetes, in the prevention of diabetes in those at risk, people
with diabetes and learning disabilities and for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
She is currently working on programmes to address vascular risk such as heart disease and
stroke, sleep apnoea and mental health. This includes the training and quality developments
of healthcare professionals delivering these interventions. Heather has a national profile with
the DESMOND programme and is a national expert trainer for ‘Conversation Maps’. She has
enjoyed being instrumental in developing and establishing the nationally recognised Diabetes
Masters Programme with the University of Leicester and has a keen interest in healthcare
professional (HCP) education to improve standards of care for people with diabetes.
Sue qualified as a nurse in 1983 and spent her clinical years working in the acute specialities
of Intensive Care and Accident as Emergency. She began her clinical research career in
1996 working in a phase I Clinical Research Organisation, first as research nurse and then
as the screening unit manager. Since then she has held positions including that of study coordinator
for multi-site Canadian C-Spine study and being the original research governance
manager at a large teaching hospital in Nottingham implementing the first processes for study
monitoring and obtaining R&D approvals; from there she moved into the role of Manger for
the NIHR South East Midlands Diabetes Network where she worked with Professor Melanie
Davies and Professor Kamlesh Khunti for the first time in 2006 to set-up and establish the
SEM DRN which became one of best performing diabetes networks across the country.
Sue has been a member of the Senior Management team for the Leicester Diabetes
Centre since starting at the LDC in 2006. She is the Centres’ Director of Operations
and has a strategic, leadership and operational role, leading a team of research and
clinical delivery staff in addition to the operational management of the LDC. She
has a passion for developing quality processes, leadership and promoting innovation
and has expertise in research governance, site-up and ongoing trial management.
More recently Sue has taken on the additional role as Operations Director for the Leicester
Clinical Trials Unit (LCTU) leading the unit to achieve its full registration status in October
2013.The LCTU works with Investigators across multiple disease areas to prepare and
submit high quality grant applications, conduct and manage multi-site RCT’s and undertake
analysis and publication of results. Clinical Trials Units are seen as a national benchmark
for quality and receive national registration from the UK Clinical Research Collaboration,
with key funders looking for engagement with CTU’s in their grant applications.
Mrs Alison Northern began her NHS career in 2006 as part of the DESMOND national team where she developed a keen interest in the embedding and implementation of diabetes structured education. She has been pivotal to the development of a number of new complex interventions including group and online programmes for those with and at risk of Type 2 diabetes and currently is working directly with Diabetes Education Providers and General Practices across England for the ‘Embedding Diabetes Education study’. More recently Alison has taken on the role of Trial Manager for the ‘PRE-STARt phase 2 trial’ in the UK and provided data management and guidance for the international sites involved in the PRE-STARt trial.