Professor John Danesh

Head of department at Department of Public Health & Primary Care, University of Cambridge

Head of the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge

John Danesh is the Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine, and Head of the 330-person Department of Public Health and Primary Care, at the University of Cambridge. He is also Director of the Strangeways Research Laboratory, Director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit, and Honorary Consultant in Epidemiology for the Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Professor Danesh leads a research group of over 50 staff and students, the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit (CEU), focusing on genetic, biochemical and lifestyle factors. The work of the CEU has had a considerable impact on public health, clinical guidelines, and priorities for medicines development in cardiovascular disease in the following main areas:

Lipids The CEU has demonstrated that lipid assessment can be greatly simplified by measurement of HDL and total cholesterol without the need to fast and without regard to triglyceride with implications for simplified screening of millions of adults screened for CVD.

Lipoproteins The CEU has shown that lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 is log-linearly associated with risk of CVD, independent of established lipids. This work has encouraged GlaxoSmithKline to launch a £250M programme of phase III trials of darapladib and it has been cited by the 2010 guidelines of the American College of Cardiology Foundation / American Heart Association Task Force recommending assessment of mass concentration of Lp-PLA2 for targeted cardiovascular disease risk assessment.

Metabolism The CEU’s work has shown that diabetes and dysglycaemia are independently associated with premature death from a range of non-vascular conditions, including several major cancers, infectious diseases, degenerative diseases, injury, and suicide.

Chronic infection & inflammation Danesh’s work on chronic infection has discouraged use of antibiotics to prevent CVD and yielded innovative approaches for evidence synthesis. In powerful and detailed analyses, the CEU has shown that C-reactive protein and fibrinogen are unlikely to be independent causal risk factors for CVD. However, the CEU has co-led the discovery of 9 novel loci in coronary disease including genes believed to be inflammation-related.

In his role as head of department, Professor Danesh has overseen major expansion in recent years of the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, which is one of Europe’s leading university departments of population health sciences. The department was top-ranked in Epidemiology and Public Health in the UK Research Assessment Exercise 2001-2008. Major developments in the department in recent years have included:

  • establishment of a Centre for Genetic Epidemiology in 2003
  • establishment of the MRC Centre for Nutrition and Cancer in 2006
  • partnership in the National Institute for Health Research School for Primary Care Research since 2006
  • establishment of major research initiatives in developing countries, and partnership in the Public Health Foundation of India-UK Consortium from 2008
  • establishment of major collaborations with several industrial partners
  • establishment of a new MPhil course in Public Health in 2006, and co-direction of a new four-year interdisciplinary PhD programme in cardiovascular research supported by the British Heart Foundation from 2009
  • establishment of a new Behavioural Research Unit in 2010.

Professor Danesh was awarded Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 2007 and of the Faculty of Public Health, London in 2009; and in 2011, he was awarded a European Research Council Advanced Investigator Award.

  • 8 February 2017, 5:30pm

    CSaP Annual Lecture 2017: Professor Chris Whitty, Department of Health

    There will be profound changes in health and disease over the next 20 years. The causes, demography and geography of ill health will shift significantly whilst the trend of demand for healthcare growing more rapidly than GNI is likely to continue. This lecture by Professor Chris Whitty discussed how it can predict, and help respond to, the policy challenges that will follow over the next 2 decades.