Genetics Society Medal 2023 Prof Douglas Higgs

The Genetics Society is delighted to announce Prof Douglas Higgs, University of Oxford, as the winner of the 2023 Genetics Society Medal.

Douglas Higgs qualified in Medicine at King’s College Hospital Medical School in 1974 and trained as a haematologist. Until April 2020 he was Director of the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit and Director of the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM). He is currently Professor of Haematology at the University of Oxford and a Group Leader in the WIMM. Douglas Higgs’ research has made a major contribution to our understanding of how mammalian genes are switched on and off during lineage specification and differentiation using haematopoiesis as his model. As part of this he has established the alpha-globin cluster as one of the best understood models of mammalian gene expression and thereby largely unraveled the molecular basis and improved the management of alpha-thalassaemia, a form of inherited anaemia affecting millions of individuals throughout the world. In addition to understanding how mammalian genes are normally regulated his group has made a significant contribution to establishing the general principles by which they are perturbed in human genetic disease. His group is currently involved in using their knowledge to manipulate gene expression in patients with thalassaemia. This work has been done with reference to, and fully integrated with, the exponential development of molecular genetics and its application to clinical medicine.

Quote: I am delighted to have been awarded this year’s Genetics Society Medal. Over the years we have learnt so much about gene regulation and the principles underpinning human genetic disease from studying the globin genes. Most importantly this work has been carried out by successive generations of the most talented students and post-docs that I have been so fortunate to mentor. This recognition is for all of them.