University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge was top-ranked in the UK (both overall and in medicine / life sciences) and second in the world in 2014/15 (THES-QS). The strength of this biomedical science is harnessed by the readiness of Cambridge scientists and health professionals to collaborate across disciplines and specialities, in partnership with other institutions and industry. This over-arching partnership has created an environment that has already allowed establishment of the highly productive NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre (and its associated NIHR Biomedical Research Unit in Dementia), which received an uplifted award of £110 million for 2012-2017.


Professor Emanuele Di Angelantonio

Deputy Head of the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge

Director of the National Institute for Health Research Blood and Transplant Research Unit (NIHR BTRU) in Donor Health and Genomics

BTRU Theme 2 Lead (Aetiology of donation-related health outcomes)

Professor Di Angelantonio was appointed as University Lecturer in Medical Screening in the Department of Public Health and Primary Care in 2010, where he leads the Clinical Epidemiology Team in the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit (CEU). In 2012 he established and began leading a new research group in blood donor health, capitalising on his appointment as Principal Investigator in Donor Health Research and Honorary Consultant for NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT). His research interests have focused on three broad topics: (1) Cardiovascular disease screening and risk prediction, (2) Global vascular health and (3) Blood donor health.

Professor Di Angelantonio is Principal Investigator of the COMPARE study, an observational study of ~30,000 donors that is identifying an optimum approach to screen blood donors for haemoglobin status as well as creating an innovative Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) BioResource.


Professor John Danesh

Head of the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge

Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine

Professor Danesh is the founder and director of the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit (CEU), a multi-disciplinary Unit of over 60 staff and students that aims to advance understanding and prevention of cardiovascular disease through population health research. His interests are reflected in the CEU’s main research themes, all of which are underpinned by research into quantitative methods: (1) Discovery genomics and cardiovascular genetics, (2) Therapeutic target prioritisation, (3) International vascular health, (4) Screening and risk prediction, (5) Systems genomics and (6) Blood donor health and biology.


Parsa Akbari

PhD student at the University of Cambridge

Parsa completed his BA in biochemistry and his MSci in systems biology at the University of Cambridge. His previous project work includes: Machine Learning at UCB Biopharma to predict bioactive compounds, looking for statistical biases in Nanopore sequenced long reads, programming an optimisation pipeline for bioinformatics software and working with Alzheimer’s data to predict the age of onset of Alzheimer’s from genetic and environmental factors. His main research interest is working with genetic data and statistics to study biological phenomenon. He is using statistical genetics to work on the INTERVAL study and contribute to Theme 1.


Elias Allara

PhD student at the University of Cambridge

Elias is a public health doctor with training in epidemiology and medical statistics. He has experience in the design and analysis of randomised controlled trials and observational studies, and in the conduction of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. His PhD explores the relationships between blood donation and health outcomes, thus contributing to Theme 2 of the BTRU in Donor Health and Genomics.


Dr Will Astle

Lecturer in Haematological Genomics at the University of Cambridge

Dr Astle studied mathematics at the University of Cambridge and trained for a PhD in statistical genetics at Imperial College London. He was subsequently a postdoctoral researcher, working in biostatistics and quantitative genetics, at Imperial College at McGill University and at the University of Cambridge.  He joined the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit (CEU) in 2016 and is a visiting worker at the MRC Biostatistics Unit (BSU) and the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

Dr Astle is interested in the genetic basis of variation in haematological risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and is involved in the development and application of biostatistical methods to understand the biological mechanisms underlying such risk factors. A major focus of his current work is the analysis of the blood trait phenotypes measured in the UK Biobank and INTERVAL studies. Ongoing applied research projects include the genetic analysis of extended full blood count phenotypes measured by Sysmex haematology analysers, the analysis of peripheral blood foetal haemoglobin levels and the analysis of platelet functional response phenotypes. Methodological projects include the development of methods to derive biologically informative statistics from images of blood smears.


Dr Steven Bell

Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Cambridge

Dr Bell is an Epidemiologist based in the Department of Public Health and Primary Care. His current position focuses on donor health and genomics, working under Theme 2 of the BTRU, where he leads genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of common adverse events in donor populationssuch as restless legs syndrome, pica and vasovagal reactionsas well as examines the causal role of iron and related traits in the aetiology of acute and chronic diseases via Mendelian randomisation analyses.

More widely, he also has an interest in individual participant data meta-analysis, the use of electronic health records in medical research, the application of various other “-omic” technologies (e.g. metabolomics, proteomics), machine learning and modelling of longitudinal data.


Tom Bolton

PhD student at the University of Cambridge

Tom attained degrees in mathematics, statistics and computer science before working as a Statistical Analyst at an award-winning quantitative hedge fund in London. He has worked as a Data Manager in the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit (CEU) since October 2013, a role he continues whilst undertaking his PhD. Tom is currently undertaking research into various aspects of blood donation, including secular trends, return behaviour, quality of life, symptoms, haemoglobin levels and iron stores, thus contributing significantly to Theme 3 (stratified approaches to blood donation).


Andrew Browne

PhD student at the University of Cambridge

Andrew is researching stratified approaches for recommending inter-donation intervals in whole blood donors, thus contributing to Theme 3.


Dr Adam Butterworth

Reader in Cardiovascular Epidemiology at the University of Cambridge

Dr Butterworth completed training in genetics at the University of Cambridge and genetic epidemiology at the University of Sheffield, before completing a PhD in meta-analysis of genetic association studies of coronary heart disease at the University of Cambridge.  This research was carried out jointly with the PHG Foundation, the MRC Biostatistics Unit (BSU), and the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit (CEU).

Dr Butterworth’s main interests revolve around the identification of genetic variation linked with coronary disease and related phenotypes using customised SNP arrays. Current efforts in this area include the 50,000-participant CardioMetabochip+ consortium and the 100,000 participant Exome+ consortium that are coordinated at CEU. He leads the cross-cutting Work Theme on Capacity Building within the National Institute for Health Research Blood and Transplant Research Unit (NIHR BTRU) in Donor Health and Genomics and contributes to Theme 1.


Dr Qi Guo

Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge

Dr Guo capitalised from research in metabolomics and via statistical analysis and integration of multi-omics datasets at Imperial College London. At the University of Cambridge she has led a large-scale GWAS and meta-analysis of multiple studies of breast cancer survival for the Breast Cancer Association Consortium.

Dr Guo’s research interests are in statistical genomics. Within the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit (CEU) she is working on discovery of rare genomic determinants of protein expression levels for ~4000 distinct proteins using whole exome sequencing (WES) technology for the INTERVAL study. Her work involves extensive use of statistical, computational and epidemiological methodologies.


Dr Stephen Kaptoge

Senior Statistician at the University of Cambridge

Dr Kaptoge has strong interests in applied statistics and epidemiology (principally cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis), which mainly involves meta-analysis of individual participant data (IPD) in large-scale collaborative studies to assess the relevance of biomarkers, lifestyle factors, and genetic risk factors to disease, with potential to improve scientific understanding, risk prediction, and public health.

Dr Kaptoge has specific epidemiological interests in studying the relevance of inflammation to cardiovascular disease. He is currently mainly involved in risk prediction and public health modelling. Dr Kaptoge is a statistical member of the independent data monitoring committee of the INTERVAL study.


Dr Lois Kim

Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Cambridge

Dr Kim obtained a PhD involving building and validating a health economic decision model for screening of abdominal aortic aneurysms whilst based at the MRC Biostatistics Unit (BSU) in Cambridge. She joined the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit (CEU) in 2018, after working within the Primary Care Unit at Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where she worked as a statistician on various projects in chronic kidney disease, dementia and heart disease, alongside teaching duties in survival analysis and statistics in epidemiology.


Dr Dirk Paul

Lecturer in Integrative Human Genomics at the University of Cambridge

Dr Paul completed a PhD in Molecular Biology and Genetics as a Marie Curie PhD Fellow at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and University of Cambridge, where he applied experimental and computational methods to aid the identification of functional variants associated with blood cell and cardiovascular traits. Following postdoctoral studies in epigenomics of immune-related diseases as part of the BLUEPRINT Consortium at University College London, he joined the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit (CEU) in 2015.

The research aims of Dr Paul’s Integrative Human Genomics group are to identify and characterise causal biological pathways in cardiovascular disease. They integrate systematic bioinformatics approaches and cutting-edge experimental strategies in cellular models and humans to uncover molecular, cellular, and physiological mechanisms underlying genetic association signals with the disease.


Lisa Schmunk

PhD student at the University of Cambridge

Lisa is interested in identifying molecular mechanisms that underlie associations of genetic variants with complex human traits. As part of Theme 1 of the BTRU in Donor Health and Genomics she is focusing on variants associated with blood cell traits and iron metabolism. In collaboration with the Wellcome Sanger Institute she will use engineered cellular models to decipher the effects of complex haplotype variants on iron homeostasis.


Dr Angela Wood

Lecturer in Biostatistics at the University of Cambridge

BTRU Theme 3 Lead (Stratified approaches to blood donation)

Dr Wood completed her doctorate on the subject of joint modelling longitudinal and time-to-event data at the University of Lancaster in 2001. She carried out postdoctoral research at the MRC Biostatistics Unit (BSU) at the University of Cambridge and, in 2006, was appointed to University Lecturer in Biostatistics in the Department of Public Health and Primary Care.

Her research interests are centred on the development and application of statistical methods for advancing epidemiological research. She has focused on developing statistical methodology for handling measurement error, using repeated measures of risk factors, missing data problems, multiple imputation, risk prediction and meta-analysis. Her applied research has focused on cardiovascular research with colleagues in the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit (CEU).


Yuejia Xu

PhD student at the University of Cambridge

Yuejia works at the MRC Biostatistics Unit (BSU) within the University. She is involved in Theme 3 within the NIHR BTRU and collaborates with the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit (CEU) on the INTERVAL study to identify subgroups of donors who can give blood more frequently than the standard practice, while maintaining their well-being. In addition, she works on estimating the optimal individualised rule, based on which inter-donation intervals can be recommended for future donors according to their specific characteristics.