Meet our 2020 Jubilee Medal winner, Professor Anne White

Anne White is Professor of Endocrine Sciences at the University of Manchester and is our Jubilee Medal winner this year. Her research focuses on POMC peptides and energy balance and she will be presenting her medal lecture at SfE BES Online 2020, on Thursday 19 November. Read this interview ahead of her lecture to find out more about her research and her career in endocrinology.

Tell us about your current research

My research focuses on the processing of the precursor for adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), propiomelanocortin (POMC), and the neuropeptide, alpha-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha MSH). For many years, my research has been involved with the diagnosis of ACTH related disorders, in parallel with understanding the role of POMC and alpha MSH in regulation of food intake and energy balance.

Tell us about your career path and what you are most proud of

In my first postdoc position, I developed monoclonal antibodies for the diagnosis of peptide and steroid hormones. This led to an interesting discovery that non-pituitary tumours causing ectopic ACTH syndrome secreted much higher concentrations of ACTH precursors, than ACTH. Having monoclonal antibodies and immunometric assays enabled easier diagnosis of these tumours. It was very difficult for a non-clinical scientist working in a clinical department to carve out a career – this was probably compounded by being a woman with young children! However, perseverance is my middle name and my interest in prohormone processing has underpinned my research in neuropeptide networks in the hypothalamus.

My early studies on the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA axis) and Cushing’s syndrome also led to research on abnormalities in the glucocorticoid receptor with David Ray, and subsequently on how chronic glucocorticoid treatment can lead to metabolic syndrome. My career has evolved despite not moving from Manchester for family reasons and I did a Royal Society Industry fellowship as my sabbatical close to home.

I am proud of the fact that I have had a rewarding career combined with a wonderful family life. I am also proud of the people who have worked for me over the years and who have established careers in their own right. I’m also proud of the work we’ve done to help patients and endocrinologists in the UK and abroad.

What inspired you to choose endocrinology as a career?

I didn’t choose endocrinology as a career, it sort of chose me! Having signed up as a post-doc, I became fascinated with the research questions and just couldn’t stop. It is much harder for a non-clinical scientist to gain the background in endocrinology that is needed to make it a career, but I had some very good mentors and the Society conferences were always a fount of information.

 What do you enjoy most about your work?

Solving research problems gives me a great sense of satisfaction. It’s a challenge and a lot of the time things go wrong, but then when you see a result which you recognise is important and you can present it successfully to your peers, it makes all the hard work worthwhile. 

I have also enjoyed working with such intelligent scientists, both those in my group and the numerous collaborators. There is also something worthwhile about doing research that I know will make a difference.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your research?

Our labs were closed for a few months but we used the opportunity to write papers and grant applications. My research team has been so resilient and they were determined to get back in the labs as soon as they could.

Please tell us a little more about what you will be presenting during your lecture at SfE BES Online 2020?

I set myself the challenge of explaining what we know about different processing pathways for POMC at the cellular level, but I also wanted to highlight the questions still to be answered. In the pituitary, POMC is processed to ACTH, but in ectopic tumours this processing is disrupted. This results in higher concentrations of POMC than ACTH in the blood, which can be used for differential diagnosis in Cushing’s syndrome. In the hypothalamus, POMC-derived peptides are important in regulating energy balance. However, there are many more steps in the cellular processing of POMC to give the melanocortin peptides. We have learnt a lot from mutations in genes involved in this pathway that result in early onset obesity in children and from mouse models. Despite this, there are complexities in these POMC networks which we don’t yet understand. Addressing these issues will be important in understanding imbalances which drive obesity and metabolic syndrome.

What do you think about the move to virtual meetings?

Moving to virtual conferences will drive a change in the way we communicate, which could be beneficial in the long-term for scientific research. It has made it so easy to listen to a talk from someone in another part of the world. However there is no doubt that, as researchers, we gain a lot from the casual conversations at a conference. The loss of this is a big disadvantage.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in your field?

We are living in very challenging times and it’s hard to predict the effect of COVID-19 on future research. It is probable that funding will be hit badly and therefore we will lose a lot of momentum. A separate challenge is trying to protect the experienced post docs and research fellows. Even without COVID-19, I would have said one of the biggest challenges is to safeguard the huge knowledge base and skill set of this group of people who have difficult career paths with a lack of secure contracts.

What do you think will be the next major breakthrough in your field?

In most cases we see incremental increases in knowledge and when different findings are synthesised, we get a greater understanding. So I think major breakthroughs are only seen in retrospect. This requires endocrinologists with different skillsets building the knowledge base. The history of scientific research has taught us that discoveries often come from unlikely sources and we need to be open minded, both to support diverse research and to recognise the nature of the discovery.

Any words of advice for aspiring endocrinologists?

Identify someone you respect and ask them if they will mentor you. You need different mentors at different stages in your career, so be prepared to change mentor. I would also suggest that you find other researchers to collaborate with as they will bring a different perspective to your ideas and may have the same research interests/obsessions, so will carry on talking with you when others are bored! This could also lead to new friendships and new opportunities. My final piece of advice would be that you should be prepared to challenge your colleagues, although this should be in a gentle enquiring way to be most effective!

You can hear Professor Anne White’s Medal Lecture “POMC peptides: master regulators of the stress axis and neuroendocrine pathways in energy balance” on Thursday 19 November at 13:05 GMT. If you haven’t already, register for SfE BES Online now!

Celebrating International Open Access Week

Dalia Nikadon is currently Acting Publisher of Endocrine Connections, an open access journal jointly owned by the Society for Endocrinology and the European Society of Endocrinology (ESE). To celebrate International Open Access Week on 19-25 October this year, Dalia has written this guest post to let Society for Endocrinology members know a bit more about open access publishing, including its benefits and costs.

The open access model makes published articles available to all readers at no cost, as opposed to the traditional subscription model in which readers have access to published papers via institutional (or sometimes personal) subscriptions. This means that once an open access article is published, anyone in the world can access it with no restrictions, including the general public. There is ongoing debate surrounding the risks of open access publishing, for example members of the public accessing research proposing controversial treatment options, and the possible rise in predatory journals. However, most academics and clinicians would agree that the vision of open access is altruistic and positive, even with the possible obstacles in this model’s implementation.

Open knowledge

While many researchers and clinicians will have access to most relevant research via their institutions, nearly all researchers will have come across articles they cannot get access to, at least not without paying a one-off charge or obtaining the article via illegitimate means.

This demonstrates the main issue with the traditional publishing model – it is only accessible to members of certain institutions, or those who can afford (or want) to pay $30-50 for individual articles. This means that members of less well-funded institutions, those not associated with any institution, and readers from developing countries, are unable to access work which may be crucial to their own research or clinical practice.

This year’s International Open Access Week’s theme is “to be Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion”. Although this year has been especially significant in highlighting inequality and injustice, as well as the need for crucial scientific research to be accessible to everyone, it is no coincidence the theme has been about equity and inclusion for the third year running. Equity and inclusion are the fundamental goals of open access publishing, not happy by-products.

Author owns their work and copyright

If you regularly publish papers, you may have come across the need to acquire permission (and pay a small fee) for figures or content reuse from publications where the copyright is assigned to the publisher. With open access publishing, authors often retain the full copyright for their published work, and other researchers wishing to reuse the work simply need to reference the original paper. Depending on which publishing license the author chooses, researchers can distribute and change the information however they want to – the most commonly used license is CC-BY and allows unlimited distribution and amendments. Some licenses are more restrictive, such as the CC-BY-NC license, which allows change and distribution of work, as long as it is non-commercial. The most restrictive – CC-BY-NC-ND – allows researchers to share your work only non-commercially and without changing it in any way.


Europe, and especially the UK, is leading in the push towards open access research. Funders like the Wellcome Trust, Charity Open Access Fund, and UK Research Councils require all work funded by them to be published open access. Plan S is an initiative by 12 European funding bodies to ensure that all publicly-funded scientific research be made immediately open access. In the future, it is likely more funders will require open access publishing from researchers funded by them.


Unlike many subscription journals, open access publication comes with author-side publication charges. In line with the theme of this year’s Open Access Week, it is important to acknowledge that, while many institutions will provide funding for these extra costs, many less well-funded institutions, including institutions from developing countries, may be unable to provide this. One way in which publishers are trying to help is with Read and Publish deals, where institutions paying subscription costs include open access publishing fees for journals belonging to the same publisher. Additionally, Bioscientifica, the publisher for the Society for Endocrinology, waives all open access fees for authors from countries on Group A of the WHO HINARI list, and gives 50% discount to authors from Group B.

Society-owned open access

Bioscientifica is owned by the Society for Endocrinology and its profits from institutional subscriptions and open access publication charges go back to the Society and its members, via training, grants, and public outreach. Some of its profits also go to the Bioscientifica Trust, a charity which helps fund early-career scientists and clinicians. Big commercial publishers often report large profit margins, with small fractions going back to the scientific community.

The Society organises regular scientific talks from Society members for both Bioscientifica and Society staff, to show what research Bioscientifica’s profits help to fund. From personal experience, these talks are very meaningful and rewarding – not just the additional insight into the scientific aspect, but knowing that the profit we play a part in generating has an ultimately positive impact on the Society and the public.

My undergraduate degree was in biochemistry and I have found it greatly fulfilling to be able to contribute to the scientific community as Acting Publisher of Endocrine Connections. Endocrine Connections is jointly owned by the Society and ESE – Society members get a 40% discount on article publication charges. Bioscientifica also publishes OA journals on behalf of other societies, including the recently launched Reproduction and Fertility (RAF), owned by the Society of Reproduction and Fertility. All article publication charges are waived for RAF during its launch years, as well as for our other recently launched journal Vascular Biology. Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Case Reports is endorsed by 12 societies – members of these societies get a 25% discount on publication charges.

Visit the Society’s publications page for more information on its journals and visit Bioscientifica’s publishing section to find out more about its journal portfolio.

Further information on open access:

An introduction to open access

Open access in research: catch up on the debate

Podcast: The Benefits of Open Access

Podcast: The Future of Open Access: What’s the Plan (S)?

Podcast: Could open access have unintended consequences?

Meet Daniel Drucker the Society’s 2020 Transatlantic Medal winner

Dr Daniel Drucker is a clinical researcher involved in the development of treatments for diabetes, obesity and intestinal disorders at the University of Toronto Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. He also holds the Canada Research Chair in Regulatory Peptides and the Banting and best Diabetes Centre-Novo Nordisk chair in Incretin biology. He will be giving his Society Transatlantic Medal Lecture during SfE BES Online 2020. In this interview he tells us a little about his research and career.

Tell us about your research and lab in Toronto

I have a medium-sized lab of 8 people, where we use molecular biology and mouse physiology to study peptide hormone action. Whenever possible, we also try and extend our findings to humans, using available tissues, or occasionally, by carrying out small clinical trials. The lab has carried out basic research leading to two new treatments for type 2 diabetes and one new therapy for short bowel syndrome.

Tell us about your career path

I was very fortunate to learn molecular biology under the tutelage of Joel Habener in Boston. I returned to Toronto and was guided to adopt transgenic and knockout mice, which proved to be wise counsel. I think I am most proud of my dozens of trainees and their success. We also take pride in being extremely careful-that sounds trite, but we are generally not as concerned about being first, rather, we are very focused on making sure the data and observations are as correct as they can be. This article includes some of my career highlights in discovery, characterization, and clinical development of glucagon-like peptides.

What inspired you to choose endocrinology as a career?

I had a great role model, Gerard Burrow, who was an enthusiastic mentor, and head of endocrinology. At the same time, endocrinology was appealing since one could understand many of the disorders, and there were multiple treatments available to correct endocrine deficiencies or hormone excess states.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I like the ability to ask questions, carry out experiments, and then scrutinise the answers. Watching trainees mature as scientists is also very enjoyable. Finally, having the good fortune to see basic science translated into new medicines is a privilege and extremely rewarding.

What are you presenting during your Medal Lecture at SfE BES Online 2020?

My presentation, ‘Incretins and Cardiometabolic Disease-An Inflammatory Perspective’ will examine how inflammation underlies many of the common endocrine disorders in metabolism, from type 2 diabetes to heart disease, to the complications of obesity and fatty liver. Gut peptides, exemplified by GLP-1, attenuate inflammation in many organ systems. I will describe how GLP-1 might work, and highlight many unanswered questions, surrounding the anti-inflammatory actions of GLP-1.

What do you think about the move to virtual meetings?

Virtual meetings allow for a broader and larger global audience, and enable us to continue to share data and concepts. I suspect that many of us still miss the social and personal interactions, and we will be keen to return to many of the in person meetings once this is feasible.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in your field?


What do you think will be the next major breakthrough in your field?

I am hopeful that stem cell therapy will solve many challenges and mature to allow for true beta cell replacement therapy for people with type 1 diabetes.

Any words of advice for aspiring endocrinologists?

Have fun, find a good environment, choose mentors that are supportive, and don’t take yourself too seriously!

You can hear Dr Daniel Drucker’s Medal Lecture “Incretins and Cardiometabolic Disease-An Inflammatory Perspective” on Wednesday 18 November at 15:55 GMT.

If you haven’t already, register for SfE BES Online now!

Meet Professor David Ray, 2020 Society for Endocrinology Medal Winner

Professor David Ray, from the University of Oxford, is the 2020 winner of our Society for Endocrinology Medal. His research focuses on circadian rhythms, nuclear receptors and metabolism, and he will be giving his Medal Lecture during SfE BES Online 2020 on Friday 20 November. Read this interview to find out more about his research ahead of the conference.

Tell us about your current position and research

I have been interested in nuclear receptors in health and disease since working on my PhD in the early 90s. As all endocrinologists learn about the importance of time of day in understanding endocrine gland function, it seemed natural to take an interest in the circadian clock. Indeed, one of my early attempts to do research came in Liverpool when studying circadian function in chronic fatigue syndrome. As I established my research group in Manchester, I started working with Andrew Loudon, one of the major players in circadian and circannual timing mechanisms. At the same time, the role of my favourite receptor, the glucocorticoid receptor, in the regulation of the circadian clock was becoming clear, so we wanted to focus our research on this. In 1998, I moved to University of Oxford as Professor of Endocrinology, where I am continuing to develop these research themes, as well as building on new opportunities to do more work with patients and volunteers.

Can you tell us about your career path and what you enjoy most about your work?

I trained in medicine in Manchester, and then in endocrinology in the North West of England. I did my PhD in Manchester, and post doc at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

I hugely enjoy discovering new things and talking about latest findings from the lab, trying to figure out what they mean and publishing the findings. I think the discussions with my research group and the interactions with other colleagues in the field are the best parts of my professional life. I take great pride in working with some of the amazing, bright, committed young scientists who join the group to make their own discoveries. I love seeing them develop, and surprise me!

What inspired you to choose endocrinology as a career?

I was drawn to endocrinology when I worked with David Anderson in Salford as an SHO. It seemed brimming with excitement, new discoveries, and powerful approaches to improve the lives of patients.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your research?

It’s been hard, but my group has been amazing. We have switched a lot of effort to computational analysis and to entirely in silico projects, in order to maintain research momentum.  We have also taken the chance to complete writing up a number of papers!

What you will be presenting during your lecture at SfE BES online 2020?

So, I don’t want to spoil the main event! I will discuss the state of the art in circadian biology and will present new work from our group, showing how the circadian clock and its output pathways regulate inflammation and energy metabolism. We have two new projects to show, one centred on the macrophage, and other on the liver.

What do you think about the move to virtual meetings?

Well, we have to do something to maintain momentum and to keep us all connected. Science is not a solitary pursuit. Virtual meetings have the advantage that they are cheap to attend and there is no barrier to colleagues with caring responsibilities. However, I do miss the chance to talk through the latest science with colleagues face to face.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in your field?

I think we face a major challenge maintaining the scientific infrastructure and funding for truly international science. We have made huge progress and the tools now at our disposal are awesome, but I think we as a community and the country face tough choices about our next steps. I don’t see that debate happening, but we are all aware that decisions are being made which will impact on how we can function in the future.

What do you think will be the next major breakthrough in your field?

I think the effective translation of the amazing science relating to the circadian clock, its components, and role in physiology to benefit human populations is lagging. I think clock-acting compounds in the clinic and embedding clock logic in healthcare will be transformative.

Any words of advice for aspiring endocrinologists?

Do it!

You can hear Professor David Ray’s Medal Lecture “Circadian control of inflammation and metabolism” on Friday 20 November at 15:50 GMT+1. If you haven’t already, register for SfE BES Online now!