Professor Michael A. Crawford – Research Director
Michael A. Crawford graduated in chemistry at Edinburgh University. Interested in the gap between medicine and chemistry, he studied biochemistry and physiology and then went to the Royal Postgraduate Medical School where he obtained a doctorate in chemical pathology in 1960. His interest took him to Uganda in Africa to establish teaching in pre-clinical and clinical chemistry.
Michael participated in setting up the Muhimbili Medical School in Dar-es-Salaam. His research work, funded by the Medical Research Council and the British Cancer Campaign, focused on the causes of tropical nutrition-related disorders in adults, such as primary hepatoma and aflatoxin, bladder cancer, endomyocardial fibrosis (the commonest cause of death from heart failure), and volvulus (the commonest surgical emergency).
After a Wellcome Fellowship in 1965 to work with Professor Ernst Baranay, Uppsalla, Sweden, Michael returned to London to head the Biochemistry Department at the Nuffield Institute of Comparative Medicine, while maintaining his research laboratory in Uganda until 1972. His comparative studies in Africa and the UK revealed the link between arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids, the brain and its evolution.
From 1982-92 he held a special Chair in Biochemistry at the University of Nottingham. In 1989 he founded the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition as the research arm of the Mother and Child Foundation. He has been awarded several honours, including the prestigious Danone Chair at the University of Ghent, Belgium for the millennium year, an honorary chair at the Albert Schweitzer International University, the International Prize for Modern Nutrition, a Centenary Award from Hoffman la Roche for “outstanding contribution to the biological understanding of the significance of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and for his research on preterm & term infant brain development”, a Gold Medal for Science and Peace from the Albert Schweitzer International University, Geneva, and a Gold Medal from the Government of Oman. He was President of the IVth and VIth International Congresses of the International Society for Fats and Lipids, and raporteur and WHO consultant for the 1978 joint Expert Consultation on the Role of Dietary Fats and Oils in Human Nutrition; and again the WHO consultant for the 1994 and the present (2008-2010) joint consultations. Professor Crawford’s laboratory served as a WHO collaborating laboratory in the 1980s, studying human milk composition and the effects of steroidal contraceptives.
The primary objective of his present work is to understand the cause of the rise in brain disorders, and especially the prevention of neurodevelopmental disorders. Much of this work has been done on maternal and preterm infant nutrition in the Homerton and Newham General Hospital Trusts in the East-end of London, with a programme started in 2009 with Imperial College. He has published over 300 scientific papers and three books, as well as contributing chapters to several multi-author books on the topic of lipids and health.
In March 2015 Professor Crawford was awarded the prestigious Chevreul Medal for his work on nutrition and the brain, and especially for his introduction of quantum mechanics to the understanding of the role of signalling in the retina and brain. In May 2015 he received the Avicenna Medal for ethics in science and peace; and in September 2016, was awarded The Alexander Leaf Distinguished Scientist Award for Lifetime Achievement.