David Weatherall is a haematologist and clinical researcher whose research has focused on the genetics of blood disorders affecting haemoglobin, particularly thalassaemia. He was the first to describe thalassaemia outside the Mediterranean and his work has led to the eradication of the disease in some parts of the world. Through his work on thalassaemia, David demonstrated for the first time that a gene deletion could cause a human disease. He developed new methods for analysing haemoglobin and measuring the synthesis of alpha- and beta-haemoglobin chains. This provided the first clear evidence of how thalassaemia arises. In addition, David’s work made possible the detection of thalassaemia early in pregnancy, enabling antenatal diagnosis. His characterisation of the mutations causing thalassaemia led to numerous families being offered genetic counselling.
David has won numerous awards, including the Lasker Prize (which ranks alongside the Nobel Prize for Medicine) and was knighted in 1987. This latest honour also recognises his role in establishing in 1989 the first Institute of Molecular Medicine in the UK (now named the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine in his honour) and in developing the WHO consensus for diagnosing and managing genetic disease, with a global impact.
The announcement was made at the Queen's Birthday Honours earlier in the year, and the investiture ceremony took place at Windsor Castle on the 8th of December.