40 year career in tuberculosis research celebrated

  • Date created: 2 October 2017

The scientific insight, leadership and influence shown by Douglas Young has been praised by leading tuberculosis researchers from across the world.

Douglas is retiring at the end of a 40 year research career seeking to better understand tuberculosis infection and the immune response the body mounts against the disease-causing bacteria.

Professor Barry Bloom of the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health in the USA said: "He has been incredibly creative scientifically, learning where the moving frontier of science is going and bringing new cutting edge ideas and technologies to tuberculosis."

Douglas was Head of the Division of Mycobacterial Research at the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, one of the parent institutes that became the Francis Crick Institute in 2015. He has held research positions around the globe and has been a respected mentor for many scientists in the field of tuberculosis.

One third of the global population is infected with the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, but only 10% of these people will go on to develop the active disease during their lives.

A complex interplay between the tuberculosis bacteria and the body's immune system determines whether someone goes on to develop the disease, or whether the bacteria simply persist in the body without ever causing any symptoms.

Douglas sought to understand the molecular pathways involved in disease progression using a combination of immunology and molecular biology techniques. He played a major role in initiating research on disease progression that underpins current approaches to development of new drugs and vaccines for tuberculosis.

His clear articulation of scientific challenges, clarity of insight and engaging writing style, are particularly singled out by those working in this area of infection science, including a number of insightful editorials for the Tuberculosis journal.

Professor Tanya Parish of the Infectious Disease Research Institute in the USA said: "Douglas has a way of expressing concepts and complex ideas, not just in an understandable fashion, but also using the most delightful analogies."

Professor Eric Rubin, from the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, USA, added: "Douglas is a thought leader and an actual leader, organising fantastically interesting and productive scientific groups."

Douglas Young completed a DPhil in microbial enzymology at Oxford University, then spent two years working on leprosy at the Foundation for Medical Research in Mumbai. After an appointment as Assistant Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, he came back to the UK and positions at Hammersmith Hospital and St Mary's Hospital Medical School. He helped establish two research centres at Imperial College London and has chaired several boards and working groups on tuberculosis. He led a $20 million international project funded jointly by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome with the goal of developing new drugs for the treatment of latent tuberculosis. 

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