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NIHR Research Professor Waljit Dhillo

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Research nurse and participant

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CRN Metabolic & Endocrine National Specialty Group

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Patient and Public Involvement

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In the Laboratory

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Research for the benefit of patients and the public


Contact Specialty Cluster A
Isabel Baker
+44 (0)20 7594 0947

Specialty Cluster A provides a coordinating function for five clinical specialty groups and brings together research leaders and their communities of clinical practice with wider stakeholders (e.g. charities, patients & public). The specialty groups provide leadership for specialty activities at national level in order to maximise research activity, delivery and access to the CRN.  They are able to advise on clinical strengths and the capacity and capability of the specialty to maximise clinical research opportunities to patients.

Emerging technology and innovation areas

Specialty Cluster A also leads the CRN in two cross-cutting areas of emerging technology and innovation, working strategically to ensure our research workforce is well supported as rapid progress is made in these fields. Our approach is to collaborate with experts both within Imperial College and also the wider community of stakeholders to uncover and address gaps in knowledge or research processes.

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Our focus areas - expand below to find out more.

Cardiovascular Disease

The Cardiovascular Disease national specialty group is lead jointly by Prof John Pepper (Royal Brompton Hospital), Dr Paul Clift (University Hospital Birmingham) and Dr Patrick Calvert (Papworth Hospital). Research areas of focus include cardiovascular disease prevention, atherothrombosis, arrhythmias, cardiac surgery, congenital heart disease, pulmonary arterial hypertension and heart failure.

Last year (2017/2018) the NIHR supported the recruitment of over 45,000 participants into 461 studies on cardiovascular disease, across 348 NHS trusts in England. 


Find out more you can visit our website at:

Access our Study Support Service online at:


The Diabetes Specialty, lead by Prof Simon Heller (University of Sheffield), includes nationally and internationally recognised key opinion leaders, all of whom are active researchers, who provide strategic input into enabling people with diabetes to participate in high quality clinical studies which are delivered to time and target.

Over 44,800 participants were recruited into CRN supported studies in 2017/18 across the entire diabetes pathway, across 297 secondary care sites and 364 primary care sites In England.

Diabetes UK has had a long association with the NIHR to injecting new ideas and innovation into diabetes research, which is good news for the 4 million people in the UK living with diabetes. We work closely with the Diabetes UK Clinical Studies Groups, to support the emerging thinking and outputs of each of the seven groups.

Find out more you can visit our website at:

Access our Study Support Service online at:

Metabolic and endocrine disorders

The Metabolic & Endocrine Specialty, lead by Prof John Wilding (University of Liverpool), is comprised of nationally and internationally recognised key opinion leaders who are principal or chief investigators for many studies. We also have representation from major national charities, including the Society for Endocrinology.

Our research focus areas support a wide range of studies such as those involving adrenal glands and associated diseases, thyroid problems, the pituitary gland, metabolic bone disease, nutrition including obesity, polycystic ovarian syndrome, reproductive endocrinology, and many rare inherited conditions affecting these systems and other aspects of metabolism.

Last year (2017/2018) the NIHR supported the recruitment of over 6,981 participants into over 100 studies in metabolic and endocrine disorders.

Find out more you can visit our website at:

Access our Study Support Service online at:

Renal disorders

The Renal Disorders Specialty, led by Prof David Wheeler (University College London), is comprised of leading research-interested clinicians and practitioners at both national and local levels. We cover the entire renal disorders care pathway across all subspecialty areas, including benign Urology.

In 2017/18, 26,019 participants were recruited to Renal Disorders supported studies, across 276 secondary care and 63 primary care sites.

CRN Renal Disorders benefits from consistent and innovative interaction with other key renal stakeholders, especially its main charity, Kidney Research UK and the academic body, UK Kidney Research Consortium (UKKRC). In 2006 the specialty helped to develop UK’s first renal research strategy.

Find out more you can visit our website at:

Access our Study Support Service online at:


The Stroke Specialty, lead by Prof Tom Robinson (University of Leicester), is made up of key opinion leaders across the UK with specific skills and expertise to support and delivered stroke studies. We cover the entire stroke pathway, from the first few hours after stroke, until months and years later. Research areas of focus in stroke have included hyperacute, recovery, rehabilitation and prevention.

Over 18,000 patients were recruited into CRN Stroke research studies, across 267 secondary care and 28 primary care sites in 2017/18. We also have ten hyperacute stroke research centres, with an increased support infrastructure to deliver complex interventions within the first eight hours of stroke onset.

Find out more you can visit our website at:

Access our Study Support Service online at:

Metabolic Phenotyping

Metabolic phenotyping is a scientific research strategy to understand the interactions between the genotype, environment and lifestyle at the molecular level - the strategy allows us to study metabolomics, the study of the complete set of metabolites within biological fluids, tissues or organisms.  

By studying the metabolome, researchers can measure the dynamics of the cell response which may in turn support the identification of active biological pathways during disease/health.  An important use of this information might be to better predict disease outcomes or treatment response to particular drug regimes.

The medical and scientific community are well aware of the potential applications of metabolomics. One imagines a wide variety of research questions could be addressed, but what are the techniques used to produce metabolomic data? How does one interpret it and make comparisons with it? How can one incorporate the techniques into a research proposal? What are the analysis options best suited to answer a given research hypothesis?  Many questions quickly emerge and researchers may not easily find answers or guidance.

We are collaborating with staff from the MRC-NIHR National Phenome Centre (NPC) based at Imperial and also the Imperial international Phenome Training Centre to broaden the use of metabolic phenotyping in the clinical research community.  We have produced a free e-learning course in metabolomics which covers the basics of the analytical techniques used and the mathematical principles which make sense of the data produced. The course comprises 14 short videos in total and includes practical aspects of sample selection, preparation, experimental and study design and biomarker identification. The course is aimed at clinicians, research nurses and practitioners.  Those who complete the course and want to take the next step in incorporating the technique in their research are encouraged to contact our collaborators at NPC.

Our current project involves producing a cloud-based reference tool against which researchers can analyse and compare their own metabolomic data.  We plan to provide reference metabolomic profiles of healthy and common disease populations so that researchers do not have to spend a significant portion of their funding on analysing ‘control’ samples.


Medical Devices

Medical technology is an extremely broad field and we have been focussing our energy on medical devices. We started by examining the current “landscape” for different types of devices and how they relate to clinical conditions. In collaboration with Imperial’s Hamlyn Centre, we produced a report on Implantable and Wearable Medical Devices for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease which charts the changing role of devices from a clinician’s tool to those entirely operated by patients. Biomarkers and multi-parameter measurements can detect the likelihood of exacerbations and in turn aid disease management and reduce hospital admission.

A second report on ‘Devices for Endovascular Interventions: Technical advances and translational challenges’ highlights the current state-of-the-art devices which form the basis of current treatments such as stenting, embolisation and ablation.

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Specialty Cluster A members

  • Professor Desmond Johnston

    Professor Desmond Johnston

    Personal details

    Professor Desmond Johnston CRN Cluster A Lead

    +44 (0)20 7594 2430



  • Ms Joy Liao

    Ms Joy Liao

    Personal details

    Ms Joy Liao CRN Cluster A Assistant Lead

    +44 (0)20 7594 6046

  • Ms Emanuela Mariani

    Professor Jonathan Weber

    Personal details

    Ms Emanuela Mariani CRN Cluster A General Manager

    +44 (0)20 7594 3390

  • Miss Isabel Baker

    Miss Isabel Baker

    Personal details

    Miss Isabel Baker CRN Cluster A Administrator

    +44 (0)20 7594 0947