Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity, growth & reproductive ageing genetics


Tim Frayling (BSc Biological Sciences, PhD)
Tim Frayling has been working in the field of human genetics since 1993. He leads a diverse team of scientists studying the genetics of common diseases and traits at the University of Exeter Medical School. His focus is on type 2 diabetes and obesity, and using techniques such as Mendelian Randomisation and recruit by genotype studies to the biology of these phenotypes. His research is currently funded by an advanced award from the European Research Council, as well as the MRC, Wellcome Trust and Diabetes UK. He contributes to the teaching programme at the University with seminars including “The Genetics of Obesity” and Research in Action modules for Medical students. His work has attracted media attention especially after a brief appearance on “Embarrassing Fat Bodies” as a scientist testing people’s “fat genes” (rather than as a participant). Before his PhD with Profs Hattersley and Ellard at Exeter, he started his career in a diagnostic setting where he learnt classical linkage analysis in Duchenne Muscular dystrophy and Bayesian risk prediction in Cystic Fibrosis, before his PhD.

Hanieh Yaghootkar (MD, MSc, PhD)
Hanieh Yaghootkar is a research fellow with a main interest in using genetics to unravel the aetiology of cardiometabolic diseases and their links. Hanieh has been using different methods from Mendelian randomization studies to more sophisticated clustering analysis to find causal directions between biomarkers (such as body fat distribution, adiponectin, lipids etc) and risk of cardiometabolic diseases. She has led a number of genome wide association studies (GWAS) and is also a lead-analyst contributing to the ongoing effort on exome chip analysis of glycaemic traits (as part of the MAGIC consortium), type 2 diabetes, blood pressure, leptin, adiponectin and body fat percentage. Hanieh has expanded her research interest to work at the intersection of common and rare forms of diabetes; she has been recently funded a Wellcome trust Seed Award to study monogenic diabetes in Iran

Mike Weedon (BSc Biological Sciences, PhD).
Mike Weedon is an Associate Professor in Bioinformatics and Human Genetics working on the genetics of both single-gene and complex disorders. He has been working at the University of Exeter since 2002 when he started as a PhD student with Tim Frayling and Andrew Hattersley. His main focuses are identifying new genes for diabetes, diabetes-related traits and genes influencing growth. Mike has been involved in very large-scale genome-wide association studies in diabetes and anthropometric traits. These studies have led to the identification of hundreds of loci influencing these complex diseases and traits. More recently Mike and other have used discoveries from GWAS studies to help diagnose the type of diabetes that a patient has – which is important for providing the correct treatment. Mike also uses whole exome and whole genome sequencing methods to identify new genes for monogenic diabetes. For example, he was part of the team that found mutations in the enzyme responsible for replicating DNA in all cells causing lipodystrophy and using whole genome sequencing to identify a non-coding cause of why some children are born without a pancreas. His research is currently funded by the MRC, Wellcome Trust and Diabetes UK.

Jessica Tyrrell (MBiochem (oxon), PhD)
Jess Tyrrell is a Diabetes and Research Wellness Foundation Fellow. Her main research focuses on utilising a genetic technique known as Mendelian Randomisation to investigate biochemical and demographic factors with a causal role in type 2 diabetes. She predominantly works with the UK Biobank resource, a study of 500,000 people and millions of variables. She contributes to the teaching at the University and is an academic tutor for the Medical Science students.

Andy Wood.(PhD, MRes, BSc (hons)Computer Science)
Andy Wood is statistical geneticist interested in the analysis of population-based studies to investigate the role of genetic variation involved in aetiology of common diseases and variation on quantitative traits. His phenotypic interests include type 2 diabetes, glycemic traits, anthropometric traits and gene expression levels. In addition he is also interested in the underlying genetic architecture of complex traits and models underlying specific genetic associations.
Andy applies the latest statistical/computational analysis methods and technologies (inc. whole-genome sequencing) to “Big Data” sets to elucidate the role of genetics for complex traits. Andy is also interested in the development of computational and statistical methods used in the analysis of genetic data.

Anna Murray (BSc Biological Sciences, PhD)
Anna Murray (a.murray@exeter.ac.uk) is a senior lecturer and has worked in human genetics for over 20 years. She is interested in the genetics of female reproductive ageing, from menarche to menopause. Anna is one of the lead investigators in the ReproGen consortium. Anna joined the group in 2005 after spending 11 years at the Wessex Regional Genetics Lab, where she held a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship. Anna did her PhD on coeliac disease and T cell lymphoma of the gut after graduating with a BSc in Biology from the University of Southampton. For a full list of Anna’s publications, please go to Google scholar.

Robin Beaumont (MMath, PhD)
Robin Beaumont is a Research Fellow looking at the genetics of birth weight. He completed his PhD in mathematics at the University of Exeter in 2014 before applying his knowledge to the field of genetics. His main area of research involves the development of analysis methods to understand the maternal and fetal genetic contributions to birth weight. He is currently working on analyses of mother-child pairs and parent-offspring trios, aiming to identify genetic loci that show parent-of-origin effects on birth weight.

Katherine Ruth (MBiochem (Oxon), Dip Stat (Open), PhD)
Kate Ruth is an Associate Research Fellow who works on the genetics of age at menopause. She recently completed her PhD with Dr Anna Murray (Jan 2016), using genome-wide association study (GWAS) analysis, GWAS meta-analysis and analysis of epidemiological data to look at genetic and non-genetic factors contributing to female reproductive ageing. Kate is contributing to ReproGen consortium projects on age of menopause. Prior to joining the group, Kate worked on analysis of health data within the NHS.

Marcus Tuke (BSc (hons) Computer Sciences, MSc)
Marcus Tuke is a computational biologist and PhD student interested in the characterisation and prevalence of genomic structural variation in the population and how it links to human diseases and traits. He focuses on using whole genome sequence and array data to characterise copy number variation in the human genome.
He is also interested in all aspects of how we can improve our ability to detect and characterise the haplotypes of complex structural regions such as multi-allelic CNVs and short tandem repeats by analysing data from high resolution technologies such as NGS, ddPCR and SMRT with the goal of defining their presence in large populations to better understand their effects on obesity, diabetes and related traits.

Rachel Freathy (MA (Oxon) Biological Sciences, MSc, PhD)
Rachel Freathy is a Senior Research Fellow interested in the genetic and environmental factors affecting birth weight. She has a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust and Royal Society and is one of the lead investigators in the Early Growth Genetics (EGG) Consortium. Rachel joined the team in 2004 as a PhD student, having previously worked as a secondary school Science teacher. Through a Sir Henry Wellcome Fellowship (2008-14), she established strong research collaborations with colleagues at the University of Bristol MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit and at Northwestern University in Chicago, while continuing her postdoctoral work in Exeter. Her research group now specializes in the use of parent and offspring genetic data to understand birth weight.

Samuel Jones (BSc Mathematics, MSc, PhD)
Samuel Jones is a Research fellow investigating the genetics of sleep-related traits and auto-immune disorders. Having completed his PhD in Mathematics at the University of Exeter, he joined the team in 2014 bringing knowledge of numerical computation and Big Data analysis. He is currently investigating the genetics of chronotype (morningness) and sleep duration in order to study causal relationships with metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes, through Mendelian Randomisation. Additionally, he is part of a group studying the use of genetic risk scores in improving differential diagnosis in several auto-immune diseases.

William Thompson (Bsc (hons) Biochemistry)
Will is a PhD student working with Dr. Rachel Freathy (Exeter) and Prof. Debbie Lawlor (University of Bristol). He is using genetic risk scores to investigate the links between intrauterine factors, such as vitamin D, calcium and iron, and birth weight. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of Exeter in 2015, and is waiting for the result of his Masters by Research in Medical Studies. He is currently using pre-existing Mendelian Randomisation methods to calculate genetic risk scores and causative associations.