Wellcome scientists rewarded in Queen's Birthday Honours list

Three of the Wellcome Trust's most eminent scientists have been awarded major honours in the Queen's Birthday Honours list: Professor Mike Stratton, Professor Anne Johnson and Professor Stephen O'Rahilly.

Wellcome Trust Governor Professor Anne Johnson received a damehood while both Professor Mike Stratton, Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and Professor Stephen O'Rahilly, a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator, received a knighthood.

Sir William Castell, Chairman of the Wellcome Trust, said: "These awards to Mike Stratton, Anne Johnson and Stephen O'Rahilly give deserved recognition to three scientists whose achievements and leadership perfectly reflect the Wellcome Trust's vision of achieving extraordinary improvements in health.

"Their fields of genomics, public health and metabolic science are areas of scientific opportunity and research need, and the Trust is proud to support them. I congratulate them warmly."

Professor Anne Johnson has led research in the epidemiology and prevention of infectious diseases for more than 25 years, bringing significant health benefits to vulnerable populations both in this country and overseas. Professor Johnson – who is best known for her work on the epidemiology and prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted infections – was the principal investigator on the first National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL), funded by the Wellcome Trust in 1990, and on subsequent NATSAL surveys in 2000 and 2010.

These surveys have been extremely important in understanding the modes of transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. In addition to her Professorship at UCL, Professor Johnson serves on the Board of Governors of the Wellcome Trust and chairs the Grand Challenge for Global Health at UCL.

Professor Johnson said: "I am absolutely delighted and equally surprised to have received this honour. Major advances in both laboratory and public health science have radically changed the ways in which we can detect and study the transmission of new and emerging infections and it is very exciting time to be involved in this field. Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of working with wonderful colleagues and research teams and this honour should be seen to recognise them all."

Professor Mike Stratton has led international efforts to understand the genetic changes that cause cancer. In his early work he discovered BRCA2, one of the two major breast cancer susceptibility genes. Analysis of BRCA2 has been used to help hundreds of thousands of women around the world make informed decisions in managing their inherited risk of breast cancer.

Subsequently, he founded the Cancer Genome Project at the Sanger Institute and led the team that discovered mutations in the BRAF gene in malignant melanoma, which has already led to new treatments for this disease. His research has revealed the scarred landscape of cancer genomes, providing deep insights into the mutational processes that continually bombard DNA and lead to the development of cancer.

Professor Stratton said: "I am thrilled and surprised to be honoured in this way. My area of work, exploring the genomes of cancer cells, is in an extraordinarily exciting phase, and this honour, as is usually the case in medical research, in large part recognises the generous contributions of the many colleagues I have worked with in my career."

Professor Stephen O'Rahilly is a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator at the University of Cambridge and is also the co-director of the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Medical Sciences. His research into human metabolic disorders has changed the way we think about obesity and diabetes, and he has ensured that his research impacts directly on patients by establishing a national specialist service for those with severe insulin resistance.

Professor O'Rahilly was the first person to show that a change in genetic factors can lead to serious obesity and the first to cure the life-threatening obesity of congenital leptin deficiency. He has received a series of international awards.

Professor O'Rahilly said: "I am delighted to accept this honour on behalf of the many dedicated colleagues who have worked with me over more than 20 years to make Cambridge a centre of excellence for research and clinical care in the area of metabolic and endocrine diseases. Having lived in the UK for more than half my life I am touched that the work I have been involved in has been recognised by my adopted country in this way."