Kay Davies is the Dr Lee’s Professor of Anatomy in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, Honorary Director of the MRC Functional Genomics Unit and Associate Head of Division (Development, Impact and Equality) at the University of Oxford. Her research interests lie in the molecular analysis of human genetic disease, particularly the genetic basis of neuromuscular and neurological disorders. She began her career in Oxford as a chemistry undergraduate, followed by a DPhil in Biochemistry. After a short postdoc in France she joined Bob Williamson’s department in St Mary’s Hospital in London where she began work on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) which is caused by the absence of dystrophin. She has been working on the molecular analysis of this devastating progressive muscle wasting disease for more than 30 years.
Prof. Dame Kay initially developed the first DNA probes for prenatal diagnosis and carrier detection and currently focuses on the development of effective treatments for DMD. She identified the dystrophin-related protein utrophin and demonstrated that increasing levels of this protein could prevent the pathology in a mouse model of the disease. She co-founded Vastox plc (now Summit plc) in order to take drugs that increase levels of utrophin to the clinic for DMD. In 1999, she set up the MRC Functional Genetics (now Genomics) Unit which aims to use genome information for the analysis of the function of genes to aid the development of new treatments for neurological disorders. Over the last ten years, she has been using ENU mouse mutants to model movement and behavioural disorders. One of these mutants links synaptic dysfunction for the first time to abnormal circadian rhythms and schizophrenia endophenotypes.
Dame Kay has won numerous prizes for her research and published more than 350 peer reviewed papers. She has an active interest in the ethical implications of genomics research and in promoting public understanding of science, appearing at Science Festivals, in newspaper reports on television and on radio (including Desert Island Discs). She has served on many Committees for charities and government organisations and has been a Governor of the Wellcome Trust since 2003. She is founding editor of the journal Human Molecular Genetics. She is currently a Director of the American Society of Human Genetics, the first year Europeans have been elected to this role. Professor Davies is a founding fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2003. She was awarded a CBE in 1995 and a DBE in 2008 in recognition of her many contributions to medical research.
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