Professor Sir Nicholas Wald
Professor Sir Nicholas Wald is the founding (1991) and former (until 2013) Director of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London. Professor Wald remained the Head of its Centre for Environmental and Preventive Medicine until 2019. Since 2020 Professor Wald is an honorary professor at University College London, St Georges, University of London and Brown University, USA. He is the founding and current Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Medical Screening.
Professor Wald is known for his research in epidemiology and preventive medicine. He pioneered the field of antenatal screening for congenital malformations and made discoveries that form the basis of screening for neural tube defects and Down syndrome in early pregnancy.
He showed that neural tube defects were a folic acid deficiency disorder and most cases could be prevented by increasing folic acid intake immediately before pregnancy and in the first few weeks of pregnancy. The research led to the US Public Health Service recommending folic acid supplementation immediately before pregnancy and later mandating the fortification of flour with folic acid. He proposed antenatal reflex DNA screening for Down’s syndrome which is now being used in routine antenatal care.
With Professor Malcolm Law, he invented the Polypill – a combination formulation that can prevent most heart attacks and strokes. He has demonstrated that passive smoking is a cause of lung cancer and with Professors Law and Morris showed that such environmental tobacco smoke also increased the risk of ischaemic heart disease.
Current research with colleagues includes screening and treatment of Helicobacter pylori infection in the prevention of stomach cancer; Epstein Barr Virus vaccination in the prevention of Multiple Sclerosis; child-parent screening for familial hypercholesterolaemia; improving screening performance of PSA screening for prostate cancer; the benefits and hazards of aspirin use; serum phosphate reduction in the prevention of aortic stenosis progression and salt and sugar reduction in the diet.