Professor Janet Darbyshire CBE OBE

Professor Janet Darbyshire CBE OBE (MBChB Medicine 1970) – Joint Director, NHR Clinical Research Coordinating Centre

Janet Darbyshire is one of the country’s leading clinical trialists and epidemiologists. Born and raised in the North West, she gained her degree in Medicine at The University of Manchester in 1970. Early positions at Manchester Royal Infirmary preceded a move to London, where she specialised in respiratory medicine, a field she found rewarding and fascinating.

Drawn to the challenge of the many unanswered questions in the treatment of respiratory diseases, in 1974 Janet joined the staff of the Medical Research Council Tuberculosis and Chest Diseases Unit (MRC TCDU). Her remit was to co-ordinate clinical trials and observational studies on tuberculosis, asthma and other respiratory diseases. Regularly travelling across Africa, she led a number of vital clinical trials into the most effective treatments for tuberculosis (TB), transforming the way the disease is managed across the world and leading to the introduction of short course chemotherapy regimens for both resource rich and poor countries.

In 1986, with the closure of the MRC TCDU, she was appointed Head of the MRC Cardiothoracic Epidemiology Group at the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), continuing to work in TB, asthma and lung cancer. With the emergence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic she then became head of the MRC HIV Clinical Trials Centre where she oversaw a programme of trials and observational studies that led to major changes in the management of HIV infection, initially in the UK, and with collaborators in Europe, North America and Australia and subsequently Africa.

Under Janet’s directorship, in 1998 the MRC Clinical Trials Unit was created as a centre of excellence for research into HIV, cancer and other diseases where there were important questions but no tradition of clinical trials.

She is a great believer in working collaboratively and was instrumental in setting up, with Professor Peter Selby, the National Institute of Health Research Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN), which now supports research across many areas of medicine, from cancer to diabetes, ensuring studies have the best chance of success.

She is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal College of Physicians (and Faculty of Public Health Medicine). She has been a Commissioner on the Commission on Human Medicines since 2005, and before that a member of the Committee on Safety of Medicines from 1993. Already an OBE, she was appointed CBE in the 2010 New Year Honours.

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