Douglas Higgs originally trained as a haematologist at King’s College Hospital. His initial research focused on the multigene clusters that regulate the expression of the red blood cell pigment haemoglobin. His laboratory unravelled the molecular genetics of alpha thalassaemia — the most common inherited form of anaemia in the world.
This pioneering work also addressed the principles by which human genetic diseases arise in general. His laboratory was the first to establish many of the mechanisms underlying human molecular pathology, including single point mutations, deletions arising from homologous and illegitimate recombination, telomeric rearrangements and perturbations in short- and long-range regulation.
Douglas’s current research focuses on the mechanisms that switch genes on and off as stem cells commit and differentiate into mature cells. In particular, he studies transcriptional and epigenetic pathways and how enhancers regulate cell-specific gene expression, using a combination of biochemistry, molecular genetics, computational biology and imaging. Douglas is currently Director of the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit and Director of the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford.
Interest and expertise
Health and human sciences
Stem cells, Hematopoiesis, Gene regulation, Epigenetics, human molecular genetics
For his seminal work on the regulation of the human alpha-globin gene cluster and the role of the ATRX protein in genetic disease.