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Diabetes is a major cause of premature death and disability globally. Several major modifiable (eg, diet, physical activities, adiposity and certain biomarkers) and non-modifiable risk factors (eg, age, family history and genetic factors) of diabetes are known, but they are mainly based on studies in the Western populations, with little reliable evidence from China, where diabetes incidence is rising rapidly and lifestyle in general population differs importantly from that in the West. Moreover, there is still limited evidence about the relevance of novel biomarkers (eg, metabolomics) to diabetes. The China Kadoorie Biobank study is a blood-based prospective study of 0.5M people, which was established during 2004-08. To date, ~10,000 new cases of diabetes had been recorded. This, together with extensive lifestyle and anthropometric data collected at baseline and genome-wide SNP, metabolomic, proteomic and blood biochemistry data that are being generated will allow for reliable assessment of causal relevance of lifestyle, blood biomarkers and genetic factors for diabetes.

Research Experience, Research Methods and Training

The project will involve experience and training in literature review, study design and planning, use of novel analytic methods, and statistical analysis, interpretation and reporting of large-scale multi-dimensional epidemiological data. The specific line of investigation will be subject to further discussion and personal interest, and may include certain aspects of the following:

  1. Investigate the relationships of several known (eg, diet, physical activities, adiposity, family history) and emerging (eg, metabolomics) risk factors with diabetes;
  2. Assess  the causal role of risk exposures, particularly novel blood biomarkers, in disease risk, using Mendelian Randomisation approach;
  3. Explore interactions between blood biomarkers and other lifestyle factors (diet, physical activity) and between genes and lifestyle factors on disease risk;
  4. Use genetic, biochemistry and other multi-omic data to explore biological pathways and mechanisms linking particular biomarkers with diabetes risk;

Develop predictive models for diabetes based on the exposure information related to lifestyle, physical characteristics and blood biomarkers.  

Field Work, Secondments, Industry Placements and Training

The DPhil will be based at CTSU, and there may be opportunities for involvement in aspects of laboratory research (eg, NMR-based metabolomics), or field work in China. The candidate will be expected to publish 3-4 peer-reviewed papers by the end of DPhil study.

Prospective Candidate

The candidate should have a 2.1 or higher degree in medicine, medical sciences or a related discipline, and an MSc in epidemiology/statistics/genetics/population health would be an advantage.