Hugh Watkins is a physician scientist whose work has helped reveal the genetic basis of inherited heart diseases and has led to new approaches to diagnosis and therapy with substantial benefit to patients.
His work on hypertrophic cardiomyopathy showed that this common, life-threatening, heart muscle disorder is caused by mutations in the molecular motor proteins of the heart. These findings highlighted novel aspects of muscle physiology and cardiac energetics, opening the way to new approaches to therapy. He went on to develop direct genetic testing and show its clinical utility for identifying individuals at risk; adoption of genetic testing has transformed clinical care for affected families worldwide.
He was elected to the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1999 and was awarded the Graham Bull Prize of the Royal College of Physicians in 2003. He headed Oxford University’s Department of Cardiovascular Medicine from 1996 to 2012, helping to build an internationally recognised centre of excellence.