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Cardiff University professor elected Fellow of Academy of Medical Sciences

13 May 2020

Professor Valarie O'Donnell
Professor Valarie O'Donnell

A professor from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine has been elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Professor Valerie O’Donnell is named among 50 of the UK’s most prominent biomedical and health scientists elected to the Fellowship, it was announced today.

The new Fellows are selected for their exceptional contributions to advancing biomedical science through world-leading research discoveries and translating these advances into benefits for patients and the public.

The Academy said the value of medical science had never been more apparent than in the current global health crisis, with many of the new Fellows now at the forefront of efforts to tackle coronavirus.

Professor O’Donnell is co-director of the Systems Immunity Research Institute, a research centre of excellence at Cardiff University, focusing on infection, immunity and inflammation research.

Her research is focused on the analysis of lipids (fats) that regulate blood clotting and inflammation in diseases such as cardiovascular disease and thrombosis.

Professor O’Donnell said: “I’m honoured and humbled to have been awarded Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences and I’m hugely grateful to my colleagues who nominated me.

“Science is always a group effort and this award reflects the long-term collaborative efforts of a large number of people whom I am extremely fortunate to have worked alongside. This includes long standing members of my own team at Cardiff and also our many outside collaborators, especially in Germany and USA.

I’d like to take this opportunity to say how much fun I’ve had working with my colleagues and look forward to many more years of fruitful discovery research.

Professor Valerie O'Donnell Professor of lipid biochemistry, Division of Infection and Immunity

Professor O’Donnell uses a biophysical method called mass spectrometry to discover new lipids that enable immune and tissue cells to communicate in health and disease, and her work has contributed to development of a new lipid-based drug that is in Phase 2B clinical trials in the US.

“This award provides me a great opportunity to champion lipid research within the UK - and international - biomedical community,” she said.

“Lipids, otherwise known as fats, are essential molecules for health. At the same time, their ability to stimulate immune and inflammatory responses forms the basis of many human diseases.

“There is still an awful lot we don’t know about lipids, and many more remain to be discovered. I am extremely grateful to the Academy for this award, and also wish to thank both Cardiff University for providing me a great environment where my research could flourish, and also my family for their continued support.”

Professor O’Donnell is UK-based lead of LIPID MAPS, a Wellcome Trust-funded Biomedical resource for lipid researchers, with around 66,000 users globally, a joint project with Babraham Institute Cambridge and University of California, San Diego. She is also a member of MRC Population Systems Medicine board.

This year's elected Fellows have expertise spanning global health, virology, women’s health, medical statistics, health policy, cancer genetics, allergy and emergency care medicine, among many other fields.

Professor Sir Robert Lechler, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: “This year our new Fellows announcement happens amidst a global health crisis.

“Never has there been a more important time to recognise and celebrate the people behind ground-breaking biomedical and health research, working harder than ever to further knowledge and protect patients and the public.”

The new Fellows will be formally admitted to the Academy at a ceremony on 25 June.

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