Prof. Douglas Higgs, UK

MRC Molecular Haematology Unit, Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital

Douglas Higgs (FRS, DSc, FRCP, FMedSci) qualified in Medicine at King’s College Hospital Medical School (University of London) in 1974 and trained as a haematologist. He joined the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit (Oxford) in 1977 and is currently Professor of Molecular Haematology at the University of Oxford, Director of the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit (MHU) and co-Director of the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM). The current interests of the MHU are: to understand the processes by which multi-potent blood stem cells undergo lineage commitment in haematopoiesis; to understand how genes are activated and repressed during normal haematopoiesis; and to study the inherited and acquired human genetic diseases affecting these processes. The main interest of his own laboratory is to understand how mammalian genes are switched on and off during differentiation and development using haematopoiesis as the experimental model. The laboratory investigates a comprehensive set of transcriptional, co-transcriptional and epigenetic influences on gene expression including the role of nuclear position, chromosome conformation, the timing of replication, chromatin and DNA modification, and the potential role of non-coding RNAs. Initial studies using the well characterized globin loci are used to initiate genome-wide studies to establish the general principles underlying mammalian gene regulation. An important aim of this work, supported by strong clinical programmes, is to improve the management of patients with common blood diseases ranging from leukaemia to a variety of inherited forms of anaemia.