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MGA News

January 1999

Two New Professors

Professor John Newsom Davies

I am delighted to report to MGA members that Angela Vincent and Nick Willcox, who will be known to many of you, have each been awarded personal Professorships in the University of Oxford.

Obtaining the title of Professor in Oxford is very difficult, and there is an arduous selection process. Their success is a mark of the outstanding research that they have each done in the field of Myasthenia.

Angela and I first worked together in the mid 1970's when she was a Research Assistant in Professor Miledi's laboratory in the Department of Biophysics at University College London. With Professor Miledi, she made one of the crucial early discoveries in MG, showing that acetylcholine receptors were reduced in myasthenic muscle. She then - very bravely! decided to join me in the Department of Neurosciences at the Royal Free Hospital (where I was then working) supported by a Medical Research Council (MRC) Grant. She moved to Oxford, with her family in 1988 after I started work here and was appointed a University Lecturer in Clinical Neuroimmunology in 1992. She also became an Additional Fellow at Somerville College. She was promoted to a Readership in Neurology in 1996. Angela has always been involved in all aspects of our research activities. Her special interests at the moment concern how antibodies in myasthenic mothers can, in rare cases, affect their babies before they are born. She now heads the group at the Institute of Molecular Medicine.

Nick joined Angela and me when we obtained our first MRC 5 year Programme Grant in 1979. He and Angela then played a key role in obtaining sequentially three further 5 year programme Grants, the last of which is still active. Nick had trained in the laboratory of the famous immunologist, Professor John Humphrey, at the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, where he obtained his PhD. We first made contact with him when he was a Lecturer in anatomy at Newcastle University Medical School, teaching medical students what was where. Important though that is (particularly for future surgeons...), it seemed a waste of Nick's considerable immunological talents. Fortunately, he agreed to abandon his 'permanent' job at Newcastle to take up a 'non-permanent' position as a Senior Research Fellow on the programme grant. As some of you will know, who have courageously donated blood for his studies, Nick has a special interest in the immune cells ('T cells') that underlie the myasthenic process. His long term goal is to find a selective 'cure' for MG by switching off the T cells that cause the disease. Nick now heads the 'Cellular' Immunology team in the group.

I believe that all members of MGA should be very proud of these awards. This is because you all made it possible by helping to provide the funding on which their research has depended. And you can also feel confident that the research they have undertaken over the last 20 years is of the highest standard.

A toast, then, to Professor Angela Vincent and Professor Nick Willcox!

MGA NEWS January 1999
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