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Professor Sir Doug Turnbull

Professor Sir Doug Turnbull

Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Disease at Newcastle University (MBBS 1976, MD, PhD 1983)

Professor Sir Doug Turnbull

Professor Sir Doug Turnbull is the Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Disease at Newcastle University. He graduated from Newcastle with a MB BS 1976, and also completed an MD and PhD. Since then, he has made the understanding of mitochondrial disease his life’s work. He has cared for over 1000 patients and their families, who are dealing with the effects of a genetic disorder that can cause causes blindness, heart failure and ultimately death. Doug’s work was recognised in 2012 when he and his colleagues were awarded the coveted Wellcome Trust Centre status, one of only nine in the UK.  As Director, Doug has built an internationally renowned team of clinicians and researchers, with patients opting to travel from all over the country to be under his care.

While the treatments he and his colleagues at Newcastle University provide have improved the quality of life for hundreds of patients, preventing these disabling genetic diseases is crucially important. Certain forms of mitochondrial disease are passed down from mother to child. Mitochondrial donation, a new IVF technique developed in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research, offers women with mitochondrial disease the chance of having healthy children. 

Doug has worked tirelessly with patients, patient organisations and policy makers to champion Mitochondrial donation, and these efforts were rewarded in 2015 when the UK parliament voted to allow this ground-breaking treatment to be offered to patients and in 2017 when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Committee granted the first donation licences.  

Under his inspiring leadership, Doug has trained over 40 PhD students who have progressed to work in this important area in Newcastle University and across the world. 

He developed and leads the NHS National Highly Specialised Services for Rare Mitochondrial Diseases of Children and Adults and is Director of the Newcastle University Centre for Brain Ageing and Vitality, supported by the MRC and BBSRC. He is an Honorary Consultant Neurologist at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.  He is also an NIHR Senior Fellow and has sat on, and chaired, several Wellcome Trust Panels and Committees during his career.

Doug has been recognised by the Royal College of Physicians on several occasions: awarded the Goulstonian Lecturer (1992), the Jean Hunter Prize (2003) and the Sims Royal College of Physicians Lecturer (2004). He was awarded a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2016 and elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 2019.

Away from the lab, Doug devotes countless hours supporting a UK-wide patient network.  This includes talks to families, presentations to charities including the Lily Foundation and Muscular Dystrophy, as well as answering around-the-clock queries from patients. 

Professor Douglass Turnbull photo