Professor Fadil Hannan, Director of the Oxford Centre for the Endocrinology of Human Lactation, is this year’s well-deserved winner of the Clinical Endocrinology Trust Basic Science Abstract prize. His research focusses on the endocrine control of lactation and bone and mineral disorders. In this interview, Prof Hannan tells us more about his research and what he will be presenting at SfE BES 2019.
Can you tell us about your current position and research?
I’m based at the University of Oxford and have recently been appointed as the Director of the Oxford Centre for the Endocrinology of Human Lactation (OCEHL). I also work on characterising the genetic basis of bone and mineral disorders. In addition, I am an honorary consultant chemical pathologist at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Please tell us a little about your career path so far, and what you are most proud of?
My background is in chemical pathology – this is a small, clinical discipline with very few academics. I decided to become an academic chemical pathologist after undertaking a PhD in the lab of Prof Rajesh Thakker FRS, at the University of Oxford. My proudest achievements include the discovery of disease-causing mutations in the GNA11 and AP2S1 genes, which has led to insights in the genetic basis of parathyroid gland function.
What are you presenting at your Medal Lecture at SfE BES 2019?
I am presenting data on a mouse model for a disorder known as familial hypocalciuric hypercalcaemia type 3 (FHH3). This is a recently identified disorder and we are utilising this model to better understand the phenotype of FHH3, and also to evaluate targeted drug therapy.
Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to at this year’s conference and you would recommend to others?
I’m looking forward to the nature versus nature debate for body weight. Clearly both influences are important but it’ll be nice to hear the arguments in favour of each contribution.
What do you think are the biggest challenges in your research area right now?
I think more funding is needed to support curiosity-driven research, as this is the type of research that is most likely to lead to substantial advances in our understanding of biology.
What do you think will be the next major breakthrough in your field?
This is difficult to predict, however, I hope that suitable cellular models can be developed to allow us to study complex physiological processes, such as lactation.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I really enjoy coming up with a scientific idea and then going ahead and testing whether this idea has any merit or not. This process pretty much sums up what science is about.
Who do you most admire professionally, or otherwise, and why?
I have many scientific heroes, so will mention just a couple of them. I have huge admiration for Rajesh Thakker, who is my mentor. He is always on hand to provide helpful advice and I have really enjoyed our robust scientific discussions over the years. In addition, Carl Sagan has made a great impression on me. He was a true scientific visionary and one of the great communicators of science. I always wish that I’d had the chance to meet him.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring endocrinologists out there?
If you’re interested in working in an intellectually fascinating field, which involves interactions between many tissues and organs and includes a wealth of cutting-edge science, then endocrinology is the specialty for you!
You can hear Prof Hannan’s presentation, “Mice harbouring a germline heterozygous AP2S1 mutation, Arg15Leu, are a model for familial hypocalciuric hypercalcaemia type 3 (FHH3)” on Tuesday 12 November at 10:25. Find out more about the scientific programme for SfE BES 2019.