Pioneering medical geneticist, Professor Meena Upadhyaya, receives OBE

05 January 2016

Professor Meena Upadhyaya
Professor Meena Upadhyaya

The achievements of an internationally renowned medical geneticist have been recognised in the 2016 New Year’s Honours list.

Professor Meena Upadhyaya, who works within the University’s Institute of Cancer Genetics, has been awarded an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for services to ‘Medical Genetics and the Welsh Asian community’.

The award is given to an “extraordinary” individual for a major local role they have played in business, charity or the public sector. Professor Upadhyaya specialises in researching ways to improve the lives of people with life-threatening inherited health conditions.

Her work has led to major improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of inherited disorders, including muscular dystrophy and neurofibromatosis Type1 – a genetic condition that causes tumours to grow along the nerves.

She played an instrumental role in discovering a gene known to be linked to neurofibromatosis type1, and later to understand why some benign tumours associated with the condition become malignant.

Her current work is concerned with the development of a ground-breaking diagnostic tool which offers rapid diagnosis of genetic disorders in people.

Alongside her work in the University and in the NHS, she devotes much of her time to women in the ethnic minority communities.

She is the founder and chair of the Welsh Asian Women Achievement Awards (WAWAA), the Ethnic Minority Women in Welsh Healthcare (EMWWH) and is a Trustee for several charitable organisations in Wales. 

She also voluntarily coaches children to enter university and is regularly involved with fundraising activities.

Speaking of her award, Professor Upadhyaya said:

“I was stunned when I first heard of this award. I am deeply honoured and humbled by it and offer my sincere gratitude and appreciation to my colleagues, research team, friends and family for their unfailing support.

“I came to this country as a housewife and never dreamt of being awarded this prestigious honour. I was privileged to have an opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives either through my medical research or through my community/charity work.”

 Welcoming the news, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan, said: "On behalf of the whole University, I would like to congratulate Professor Upadhyaya.

"The impact of Meena Upadhyaya’s vitally important research is felt the world over, and I’m delighted she has been honoured in this way. Of equal importance is the work she does in her local community, which is testament to her tireless work ethic and devotion to the causes she holds dear.”

Until her retirement in 2014, Professor Upadhyaya headed the all-Wales Medical Genetics Service’s Research and Development Laboratory. She retains an honorary Professorship with the University and continues to conduct her research.

Also receiving honours this year were alumnus Professor Paul O’Brien FRS (OBE for services to science and engineering); honorary fellow Mr Simon Weston (CBE for charitable services); alumna Dr Jennifer Margaret Harries (OBE for services to public health); alumna and honorary fellow Mrs Carolyn Kirby (OBE for services to justice and cancer care); alumnus Dr Alan Roy Wilson (OBE for services to the quality and safety of healthcare in Wales); associate tutor (OPTOM) Mr Peter Hong (MBE for services to optometry); and alumna and honorary fellow Sian Phillips (DBE for services to drama).