Professor Sudlow was appointed to the post following a stringent recruitment process, based on her vision for the institute’s science led focus on enabling impactful health data research to improve people’s lives. Cathie is internationally recognised for her long-standing expertise in leading major health data science projects of global relevance. She will continue to lead the BHF Data Science Centre.

Cathie Sudlow

Cathie – a stroke neurologist and epidemiologist from the University of Edinburgh – was previously Chief Scientist at UK Biobank and sits on the scientific advisory boards of several high-profile data initiatives, including Our Future Health, which is destined to become the UK’s largest ever research resource. Cathie is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She was awarded an OBE for services to medical research in 2020.

In taking on this Chief Scientist role, Cathie also becomes Deputy Director of HDR UK, playing a crucial role within the Senior Leadership Team to position the Institute as an international centre of data science excellence.

Professor Andrew Morris, Director of HDR UK, said: “The creation of the Chief Scientist post is a reflection that trustworthy, rigorous science is fundamental to everything that we do at HDR UK. Cathie’s scientific vision and expertise are second-to-none and she excels in building successful partnerships. With Cathie at our scientific helm, HDR UK is in a great position to lead the way in safely and securely grasping the opportunities that data has to offer for improving people’s health and wellbeing.”

Building on success

Cathie will continue her role as Director of the BHF Data Science Centre, a flagship collaboration between the BHF and HDR UK. The Centre was established in 2020 to accelerate research in cardiovascular disease.

Amongst many achievements since its inception, the Centre has worked in partnership with NHS Digital to establish a new Trusted Research Environment (TRE) for England, enabling safe and secure access for research to multiple sources of de-identified health data for over 95% of the English population. This has enabled several high-profile research findings, such as the long-term impact of Covid infection on blood clot risk. The Centre has also grown a flourishing, interdisciplinary team to enable cardiovascular data science across the UK and beyond and has launched a major partnership with Diabetes UK to better understand the links between diabetes and diseases of the heart and circulation.

As Cathie assumes her additional responsibilities, new leadership opportunities will become available within the Centre to support its work in driving forward cardiovascular health research.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director of the BHF, said: “I am pleased and proud to see Cathie appointed as HDR UK’s first Chief Scientist. I am sure that this new position will complement and bolster the ongoing, ground-breaking work of the Data Science Centre. The BHF continues to partner closely with HDR UK to harness the enormous potential of data science at scale on routinely collected healthcare data to improve the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.”

The next phase

Cathie takes over the scientific leadership of HDR UK at an exciting time as it approaches its second five-year phase. Cathie will oversee the science that underpins the Institute’s plans to build on its national and regional research expertise, further develop trustworthy research infrastructure and services, and grow its partnerships. Several cutting-edge research driver programmes, which represent science from bench to bedside, will help ensure that research needs drive the crucial developments in infrastructure that will enable health data science for public benefit at increasing speed and scale.

Throughout this new phase, HDR UK’s commitment to involving public and patient partners at all stages of research will be upheld and, in her new role as Chief Scientist, Cathie will be integral to building public trust and ensuring that HDR UK continues to enable science that is meaningful, ethical and in the public interest.

An extraordinary time

Cathie said: “This is an extraordinary time for health data science. The COVID-19 pandemic was a tipping-point in demonstrating the value of big data – insights from hospital and general practice records, ethnicity data and vaccine uptake, for example, fed into policy at speed and transformed our understanding of, and response to, the pandemic. It is imperative that we build on this momentum.

“I am delighted to begin this new role as Chief Scientist for HDR UK, and to continue to build on the successes of the BHF Data Science Centre. Data scientists are at the coalface of some of the biggest medical challenges that the world faces, but we are only just starting to tap into the potential that data has in transforming lives.”