MRC LMS researcher elected as Academy of Medical Sciences Fellow

 8 May 2019   Grants and awards

Irene Miguel-Aliaga, Head of the Gut Signalling and Metabolism group at the MRC LMS, has been elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.


Irene is one of 50 new Fellows announced today. She joins a group of the UK’s leading figures within biomedical and health sciences who have been selected for their outstanding contributions to advancing medical science, cutting edge research discoveries and translating developments into benefits for patients and wider society.

This year’s elected Fellows have expertise spanning global health, virology, women’s health, medical statistics, health policy, cancer genetics, allergy and emergency care medicine amongst many other fields.

Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences said:

“The Academy’s Fellowship is a unique assembly of the finest minds in biomedical and health research, from across the UK and beyond. Our Fellows are at the centre of all that we do, from supporting early career researchers via our hugely popular mentorship programme to incorporating public and patient views into health research. Their collective wisdom is a national asset to guide research and policy aimed at tackling pressing health challenges.

“It brings me great pleasure to congratulate the new Fellows, each of whom has pushed the boundaries of their individual research field. I am always delighted to see the Fellowship expand, adding fresh talent to our invaluable pool of high quality guidance, advice and expertise.”

Speaking about the election, Irene said:

“This is not only a personal honour but also a tacit acknowledgment of the hard work of that many people from many nations have carried out in my lab over the years. Looking at the list of new academy members, it is refreshing to see increasing efforts from the academy to acknowledge the contributions of female scientists and scientists who migrated to the UK to contribute to its science”.

19 of the new Fellows are women, representing 38% of all Fellows elected in 2019, the highest percentage of women ever elected in one year. 20% of the new Fellows are non-UK nationals, coming from seven countries and four continents.

A prestigious career

Irene is a Professor at Imperial College London and Section Chair and Programme Leader at the MRC LMS. She received her DPhil in Genetics from the University of Oxford working with Kay E. Davies, and explored how neurons acquire their identity during postdoctoral work with Stefan Thor at Harvard University, Linkoping University in Sweden and then Alex Gould at the Crick Institute. She established her own lab at the University of Cambridge in 2008 before moving here to the LMS in 2012, and was elected as an EMBO member in 2017.

A female fly stores fat (orange) and expands it gut (blue) to fuel its many eggs (pink) as they grow, shows research by Miguel-Aliaga and team. (Paola Cognigni, with MRC LMS)

Here at the LMS, the Gut Signalling and Metabolism group use fruit flies to explore how our brains and guts communicate. She says they pioneered the genetics of neurons in the guts of flies. Her laboratory’s research highlights include a study published in Nature on how organs in our body may have a sexual identity of their own, and a second, separate study, which shows that the intestine grows and changes how it handles fat during reproduction, which may help to explain why women do not need to “eat for two” during pregnancy because the intestine adapts to extract more energy from the same amount of food. Read more about Irene’s lab and their research here.

Director of the MRC LMS, Professor Dame Amanda Fisher, had this to say about Irene’s election:

“I am delighted that Irene Miguel-Aliaga has been appointed as a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. This award recognises Irene’s outstanding contribution to science and it is richly deserved”.

The new Fellows will be formally admitted to the Academy at a ceremony on 26 June 2019.

Miguel-Aliaga joins fellow LMS researchers Dominic Withers, Amanda Fisher and Matthias Merkenschlager who are all Fellows of the Academy of Medical Sciences. An online directory of existing and new members is available here.