Natalie completed her PhD in 2015 in the Cancer Epigenetics Unit at the Hammersmith Campus, under the supervision of Dr James Flanagan and Professor Bob Brown. Her work focussed on DNA methylation signatures of breast cancer subtypes and environmental exposures. She co-published the first genome-wide signature of smoking exposure and developed a methylation index that can reliably determine individuals who were former smokers.
Work during the final year of her PhD developed the use of cells derived from breast milk as a resource in which cell-specific epigenetic changes can be assessed, with potential for the development of cancer risk prediction tools. This work has led the the establishment of a nationwide prospective population cohort study, the BECS study, which aims to recruit milk samples from several thousand women over the next 6 years. She has developed collaborations between numerous research groups across the UK and beyond, and her future work will focus on establishing a bioresource to expand the scope of research that can be conducted into breast milk. She is a Trustee of the UK Association for Milk Banking.
Natalie is the cofounder of the Human Milk Foundation, a charity that aims to change perceptions around human milk through science, information and enhanced access to screened donor milk from the Hearts Milk Bank. She won a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship at Imperial College London in 2019 to establish a programme of collaborative research, investigating the optimal use of donor milk to support maternal breastfeeding and mental health, as well as optimise infant outcomes. She is also establishing a bioresource of milk samples to facilitate wide-ranging global research, with an emphasis on maternal health and breast cancer research. She trained in medicine at Oxford and worked as a surgeon before pursuing a career in research and innovation. She has a passion to contribute to public health through a combination of innovation, compassion and common sense.
Points of Light Award