The Fernau Medical Research Award is an annual award of up to £20,000 to support research projects that will advance good clinical practice in the diagnosis and management of genetic haemochromatosis. The award is open to clinicians and researchers who are in the early stages of their career.

We are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2023 Furnau Award is Dr Prabhsimran Singh, Hepatology Research Fellow, York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Dr Singh has received funding from our charity to study the prevalence of cirrhosis and its related complications amongst patients with genetic haemochromatosis in England.

Through this research, Dr Singh's team aim to identify the proportion of GH patients with cirrhosis and cirrhosis complications such as liver cancer and fluid in the abdomen (ascites). Their goal is to determine the percentage of patients with additional risk factors for cirrhosis such as diabetes, viral infections, and harmful alcohol use. The will enable the NHS to identify GH patients most at risk of developing serious complications, to help guide future healthcare strategies for this patient group.

HUK CEO Neil McClements said "We received many excellent awards applications this year, but this research project stood out particularly. The judges were impressed by Dr Singh's comprehensive use of existing NHS datasets to identify GH patients most at risk of liver disease resulting from genetic haemochromatosis. This work will deliver a scalable approach to identifying patients at most risk of liver conditions, which are often hard to identify until it's too late."

We spoke with Dr Singh (age 32) to understand his project and the value that Haemochromatosis UK brings in encouraging researchers in the early stages of their career...

"I’m a Gastroenterology & Hepatology Registrar who’s currently focusing on research alongside clinical work and teaching at the York & Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

For me, my interest in haemochromatosis came as part of my training, as liver disease can be one of the comorbidities that come with it, and this is the area that I plan to specialise in. There are still many unanswered questions around liver disease and haemochromatosis so when the opportunity came up to undertake further research into this, I wanted to be involved.

The project that I proposed was research into how many haemochromatosis patients experience advanced liver disease, and if there are any factors that we can identify that have an impact on why some people get liver disease with haemochromatosis.

Our team plans to analyse a decade of NHS patient data to review how prevalent advanced liver disease, such as cirrhosis or liver scarring,  with haemochromatosis is. We’ll also look into other conditions and factors that might help us to understand any patterns that could start to build a picture of why this happens. In the future, this could help us to improve the care and outcomes for patients, as well as educate other health professionals.

Although we’re using NHS data, this comes at a cost as we have to work with the NHS Digital team to generate the data. That’s when I started to research any opportunities that would be available to support our proposal to help those with haemochromatosis understand more about their condition - without funding, this project wouldn’t be able to happen.

I sent my proposal to Haemochromatosis UK after discovering their Fernau Medical Research Award supports research projects that will advance good clinical practice in the diagnosis and management of genetic haemochromatosis. Their application also showed that they support young researchers, which was an amazing opportunity.

I was ecstatic when my proposal was accepted, as without this support the research wouldn’t be able to go ahead. I hope through this project we will gain a better understanding of advanced liver disease in individuals with haemochromatosis which can help change their lives as well as their families and communities."

Entries for the 2024 award open on 1st May. For further details, visit the awards page.