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Professor Roy Taylor awarded MBE for services to diabetes research

Congratulations to Diabetes UK-funded researcher Professor Roy Taylor, who has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours list, recognising his world-leading work in diabetes research.

Professor Roy Taylor

Professor Taylor is Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Metabolism at Newcastle University and a Diabetes UK-funded researcher. His life-changing discoveries have transformed the way we view and treat type 2 diabetes, by working out how to put the condition into remission, and improved the lives of millions by protecting them from devastating diabetes complications.

Tackling sight loss

We first teamed up with Professor Taylor back in the 1980s when we funded his research into a pioneering new approach to screen people with diabetes for eye damage. Before this point, screening could only be carried out by eye specialists with expensive equipment. This meant it was almost impossible to screen everyone at risk and far too many people with diabetes were developing eye problems. 

Professor Taylor wanted everyone with diabetes to have access to eye screening. He devised a new type of retinal camera and set it up in the back of a second-hand ambulance that visited diabetes clinics in and around Newcastle. The team would analyse results on the spot to see if there were any early signs of eye damage. It meant more people could be screened and treated before damage progressed too far, helping to prevent vision problems and sight loss.

This evidence led to the national eye screening programme for people with diabetes, which today everyone with diabetes can access. And in 2009, Newcastle became the first place in the UK where diabetes was no longer the leading cause of sight loss in people of working age. That effect has since spread across the UK, all thanks to Professor Taylor’s ground-breaking research.

A remission revolution

Professor Taylor’s research later moved on to unravelling how type 2 diabetes develops, and how it might be possible to get the pancreas working again to put type 2 into remission.

We’ve been backing Professor Taylor’s trailblazing remission research since 2008. At this time, type 2 diabetes was considered a life-long condition that would get progressively worse. But Professor Taylor’s discoveries rewrote the story on type 2 diabetes.

By 2011, his results showed that it was possible for some people with type 2 diabetes to go into remission by losing weight through a low-calorie diet weight management programme. He developed innovative research techniques that meant we could take images of levels of fat inside and around organs, like the liver and pancreas. And his world-first results showed that losing excess fat within liver and pancreas was key to going into remission.

As co-lead of our landmark DiRECT study, Professor Taylor and colleagues built the evidence needed to see these game-changing findings begin to change care for people with type 2 diabetes, with the roll-out of NHS remission programmes. These programmes are giving thousands of people living with type 2 diabetes and overweight the chance to get the support they need to go into remission and have a healthier future. And Professor Taylor’s Diabetes UK-funded ReTUNE study has now given hope that remission is also possible for people with type 2 diabetes and lower bodyweights.

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said:

“We are delighted that Professor Taylor’s unwavering contribution to diabetes research has been rightly recognised with this honour.

“The life-changing impact of Professor Taylor’s research over the decades cannot be overstated. It has protected people from devastating diabetes complications and, for some with type 2 diabetes, given them a future potentially free from the condition. We are immensely proud to have supported many of Professor Taylor’s innovative ideas, contributing to his incredible research legacy.”

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