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Last Updated: Friday, 29 December 2006, 23:52 GMT
Drug trial safety expert knighted
Parexel, the research company that conducted the trial
Sir Gordon's work aims to ensure drug trial safety lessons are learned
The man who led the inquiry into safety after a drugs trial incident that left six men seriously ill, is among those named in the New Year's Honours.

Professor Gordon Duff, who is also Medical Research Dean at Sheffield University, received a knighthood.

Other medics knighted this year include the National Heart and Lung Institute ex-head Professor Malcolm Green and UK diabetes expert Professor John Tooke.

And Professor Joan Higgins, chair of the Christie NHS Trust, became a Dame.

It was a difficult task...now it is time for implementation of our recommendations
Sir Gordon Duff

Sir Gordon, who is chairman of the Commission on Human Medicines, said it was a "major honour".

"Following the disastrous trial at Northwick Park in March of this year I was asked by the secretary of state to chair a report on what needed to be done in the future to increase the safety of clinical trials in the UK.

"It was a difficult task, but we were greatly helped by the major stakeholders. Now it is time for implementation of our recommendations and keeping a very careful watch on trials of more innovative medicines that are coming along."

Six men were left seriously ill after taking part in a trial conducted by research company Parexel, at Northwick Park Hospital in north London, in March.

The experimental drug they took, designed to treat multiple sclerosis, leukaemia and arthritis, sent the immune system into overdrive and all six men suffered multiple organ failure.

Tobacco fight

The Duff report emphasised the need to collect safety information from unpublished clinical studies.

It also recommended some drugs might be best tested on people who are already ill.

On a personal level, Sir Gordon said he was looking forward to getting back to doing some research work at his university.

Dame Joan Higgins is emeritus professor of health policy at the University of Manchester, and as chair of the Patient Information Advisory Group and the Care Record Development Board Ethics Advisory Group is heavily involved in patient consent and confidentiality issues.

She said: "I am absolutely delighted and extremely honoured and very surprised.

"I am probably one of the longest serving non-executive directors in the NHS, having served in the role for over 25 years now.

"I hope to use what influence I have to continue to support the NHS, to promote modernisation of the NHS for the benefit of patients and to improve research and services to patients."

Services to medicine

Sir John Tooke, dean of the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry and honorary consultant physician at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, was knighted for his services to medicine.

He is an international authority on the complications of diabetes.

As founder of the NHLI charity in 1985, chairman for 10 years, then president from 2001 until spring 2006, Sir Malcolm Green coordinated its research strategies across six campuses with 55 professors, 500 members of staff and an annual turnover of nearly 30 million.

He was also chairman and president of the British Lung Foundation.

Sir Malcolm said: "This honour is not just for me but also for all those people, the scientists, donors and volunteers, who gave time and money to the foundation.

"I'm also delighted that all the work in respiratory medicine colleagues and I have done, particularly the fight against tobacco, has been recognised."

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