Research Grants Committee


The Research Grants Committee is a sub Committee of the Board of Trustees and comprises a number of Trustees assisted by a special advisers with a range of academic and clinical expertise.

Professor Deborah Dunn-Walters (Chair, Trustee)

dunhill-medical-trust-181116-52After a PhD in Molecular Toxicology at the University of Surrey, Deborah Dunn-Walters did her first postdoctoral position with Professor Roger King at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund before moving to the University College London’s Pathology department to study B cell lymphomas.  There she became fascinated with the mechanisms of antibody diversity and affinity maturation in man, and found ways of studying immunoglobulin sequences in order to track B cells through an immune response and between different tissues.  As a newly-independent Principal Investigator at King’s College London, Deborah built on her experience with immunoglobulin genes, and her contacts with computationally-aware collaborators, to investigate the footprints of somatic hypermutation.  This work was critical in our present understanding of the mechanism of hypermutation, and was used in her first studies to investigate how the humoral immune response changed with a person’s age.  Deborah became a member of the British Society for Research on Ageing at this time and has devoted her research to the study of immune senescence ever since.  She is now Professor of Immunology and head of section at the University of Surrey with over 90 research publications in the area of B cell immunology and a number of interdisciplinary collaborations in mathematics and bioinformatics.  She reviews for various journals and grant awarding bodies and is on the Bioscience for Health Strategy panel of the BBSRC.

Professor Tim Cawston (Independent Advisor)

Tim is William Leech Professor of Rheumatology at Newcastle University

Dr Andrew Clegg (Independent Advisor)

Andy is a Clinical Senior Lecturer in the Academic Unit of Elderly Care and Rehabilitation, Bradford Institute for Health Research, University of Leeds and an Honorary Consultant Geriatrician at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, with research interests in frailty, delirium and dementia. He is currently deputy lead for the Yorkshire & Humber NIHR CLAHRC Older People’s Theme, entitled ‘Primary care-based management of frailty in older people’.

Dr Daniel Davis (Independent Advisor)

Daniel Davis is a geriatrician and epidemiologist with a particular interest in delirium, acute illness and trajectories of cognitive decline. He qualified from the University of Edinburgh in 2003 and undertook his PhD with Carol Brayne at the Cambridge Institute of Public Health (2010-2013). Since 2015, he has been working in the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL where he has started the Delirium and Population Health Informatics Cohort (DELPHIC) study. DELPHIC is following up 2000 individuals aged 70-100+ before, during and after hospitalisation. He is also a consultant in geriatric and general (internal) medicine at University College London Hospital (UCLH).

Professor Andrew Devitt (Independent Advisor)

Andrew Devitt studied Microbiology through his undergraduate and postgraduate years with a keen interest on host epithelial cell responses to infection with the important human pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis.   His postdoctoral research began at the University of Birmingham with Prof Christopher Gregory.  It was here that his interest in cell death and the impact on innate immune (macrophage) cells began.  His work identified the pattern-recognition receptor CD14 as a macrophage receptor for unwanted ‘self’ cells and this work helped to shape a clearer understanding of the role of the innate immune receptors in immune responses.  Since his appointment as Principal Investigator at Aston University, his worked has continued in the area of cell death and innate immunity.  This has developed into a novel focus on Extracellular Vesicle-mediated communication between apoptotic cells and the innate immune system, a communication event that helps to drive cell recruitment.  His research now addresses the mechanisms of cell recruitment and how this may be manipulated for therapeutic gain.    Andrew sits on the editorial board of multiple journals and is currently Chair of BBSRC Committee A.

Dr Diane Gyi (Independent Advisor)

Diane is a Reader in Health Ergonomics and Design at Loughborough University, and teaches on the Ergonomics (Human Factors) and User Centred Design programmes. She started her career as an Occupational Therapist which has given her insight into the damaging effects that poorly designed products, services and systems can have on both staff and patients. She received an ARC bursary to study for an MSc in ergonomics, this was followed by a PhD and she is now a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIEHF). Her knowledge of theory and practice has allowed her to integrate health ergonomics into a broad range of design applications involving collaborations with over 50 organisations and grants to the value of over £3 million. Applications of her work have covered topics as diverse as designing transport/cars for older users, inclusive design of smart technologies and healthy ageing in older construction workers. She is passionate about ensuring impact from funded research and embedding knowledge from research into industry and other organisations. She has been an elected member of the EPSRC Peer Review College and reviews for many funding bodies. She is also an editorial board member of both the International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics and Applied Ergonomics and has published widely, with over 50 journal papers and 100+ international conference papers.

Dr Sian Henson (Independent Advisor)

Sian Henson completed her undergraduate studies at Southampton University and obtained her PhD at Imperial College London. Subsequently Sian undertook postdoctoral training with Prof Richard Aspinall at Imperial College before being awarded a Research into Ageing fellowship, which she completed in Prof Arne Akbar’s lab at University College London.  Sian joined the William Harvey Research Institute at Queen Mary, University of London in 2015 where she has established her own research group investigating the dysregulation of T cell metabolism during human ageing and how it maintains an inflammatory deleterious state.

Ms Susan Kay (Executive Director, ex officio)

 Sue is a strategic planning and governance specialist having spent the first half of her career in private sector finance, strategic marketing and corporate mergers and acquisitions. Some volunteer work assisting universities with commercialising their intellectual property led to a sabbatical to undertake a Master’s degree in science policy and innovation. She has since served on the executive board of a number of UK higher education institutions in strategy, finance and planning roles and as a non executive on the Board of a college of further education. She has most recently combined heading up a national academic network of senior scientists and engineers (where she worked with a number of national bodies and government departments negotiating on funding policy for high cost subjects and devised and administered a number of grant funding streams) with being governance lead for an almshouse trust providing accommodation and community services for older people.

Professor Karen Lowton (Independent Advisor)

Karen Lowton is Professor of Sociology (Ageing and Health) at University of Sussex. She initially trained as a registered general nurse at King’s College Hospital, specialising in intensive care before working as a research sister at St George’s Hospital Medical School. Karen left the NHS in 1996 to undertake a mixed-methods PhD in Sociology at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College. On completion of her thesis Karen joined the faculty of King’s College London where she spent 14 years working as research fellow in Palliative Care, lecturer in Nursing, and then senior lecturer in the Institute of Gerontology. Alongside understanding the challenges that people conventionally growing old face, Karen’s research focuses on understanding the health, needs and experiences of ‘new’ ageing populations. These comprise groups of people with rare and complex health conditions who, for the first time in history and due to innovative medical interventions, have been enabled to grow into adulthood. These pioneering groups include adults with cystic fibrosis, autism, and adults who underwent organ transplant as children. Although survival age is increasing, many adults experience traditional challenges of old age much earlier in the lifecourse and for many life expectancy remains shortened. Karen has conducted a number of studies with these groups and those who provide care and support for them, including investigating how end of life care is experienced by families of adults with cystic fibrosis; problematising the ‘transition’ to adult care services of children with rare and complex conditions; and the lived experience of the now-adult survivors of the first paediatric liver transplants in Britain. Karen’s methodological expertise lies in qualitative and health service research; particularly in conducting sensitive research with vulnerable people. She served a maximum term as a member of King’s College London’s College Research Ethics Committee and is currently a member of the Social Sciences & Arts Cross Schools Research Ethics Committee at University of Sussex.

Professor Alison Petch (Trustee)

dunhill-medical-trust-181116-25Originally trained in planning and in social work, Alison has spent most of her career involved with research and policy.  For two thirds of her career she focused on doing research; for the last third on research implementation.  Her research activity centred on the balance of care and support across community and institutional settings and on partnership working across health, housing and social care.  From 1985 to 1993 she worked at the Social Work Research Centre at Stirling University, funded by the ESRC and Scottish Government to evaluate social work effectiveness. In 1993 she moved to Glasgow University as Director of the Nuffield Centre for Community Care Studies. In 2005, the opportunity to put in place her belief that the findings of research need to get used tempted her south to establish Research in Practice for Adults (RiPfA).  Part of the Dartington Trust, RiPfA was a partnership agency funded by local authorities to embed evidence-informed practice at the heart of adult social care across England.  In 2009 she took the opportunity to return to Scotland as Director of IRISS (Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services), a third sector organisation primarily funded by Scottish Government.  The role of IRISS was to support the social services workforce in Scotland to deliver positive outcomes for people.  Close work with partners, particularly front-line practitioners, enabled IRISS to develop considerable expertise in ensuring effective mechanisms for knowledge transfer and in delivering user-focused outcomes.  She retired from paid employment in 2015, but maintains her commitment to co-design and co-production through involvement with organisations working to improve the quality of life for individuals.

Professor John Potter (Independent Advisor)

 Following various general medical training posts John was appointed British Heart Foundation Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham where the research for his MD thesis was undertaken into aspects of the relationship between alcohol consumption and blood pressure. In 1985 he was appointed Lecturer in Medicine at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, moving in 1989 to the University of Leicester as Senior Lecturer in Medicine for the Elderly. In 1993 he was appointed Chair in Medicine for the Elderly at the University of Leicester, moving to the University of East Anglia in October 2006 as the Foundation Chair in Ageing & Stroke Medicine.John’s main research interests are centred on cerebrovascular disease, hypertension and cardiovascular risk, cardiovascular physiology and physiology of ageing as well as cardiovascular causes of syncope.  Recent research has focused on the relation between cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairment in relation to changes in neurovascular coupling.  John has been Principal Investigator in two NIHR and Stroke Association funded large multi-centre UK based trials of the management of blood pressure in acute stroke and currently holds a Programme Grant from the BHF and Stroke Association looking at BP variability post-stroke.  A member of the British Hypertension Society’s and Joint British Societies Cardiovascular Risk Guidelines committees John has received funding from several medical funding bodies including the MRC, Dunhill, BHF, Stroke Association, Diabetes UK and Alzheimer’s Society and sit on several grant awarding bodies. 

Associate Professor Garry Tew (Independent Advisor)

 Garry is an Associate Professor of Exercise and Health Sciences at Northumbria University. He studied sport and exercise science through his undergraduate and postgraduate years, with a keen interest on physiological and functional adaptations to exercise training. His postdoctoral research began in 2006 at Sheffield Hallam University where he completed a PhD in the physiological effects of exercise training in people with peripheral vascular disease. He has gone on to lead several randomised controlled trials of exercise training in a range of clinical populations, including inflammatory bowel disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, prostate cancer, and older adults with multimorbidity. His research aims to improve the evidence base for exercise training in the management of chronic disease. Garry reviews for various journals and grant awarding bodies, and is a member of the Older Adults Expert Working Group for the 2018 UK Chief Medical Officers Physical Activity Guideline Update.

Dr Kate Walters (Independent Advisor)

Dr Kate Walters is Director of the Centre for Ageing Population Studies (CAPS), University College London (UCL). She leads a research group focussing on health and well-being for older people in primary care, public health and community settings. This works spans both epidemiology of age-related diseases, and the development and testing of complex interventions to improve care and promote well-being for older people in primary care and the community.  Topics include frailty, health promotion, neurodegenerative disease (dementia and Parkinson’s disease), health services research and end of life care.  She has an interest in the analysis of routinely collected healthcare data in ageing topics, and clinical trials of complex interventions, and is a Trialist in PRIMENT Clinical Trials Unit. Alongside her academic work, she is a practicing GP in North London. 


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