OXFORD scientists have been recognised by the Queen at Buckingham Palace for their work on preventing strokes.

Oxford University’s Stroke Prevention Research unit was honoured at the Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education on Thursday.

The team of more than 30 scientists was put forward to represent the university, which was honoured for the ninth time – more than any other university.

Prof Peter Rothwell, who founded and directs the unit, said: “The biggest honour was being selected as Oxford’s submission rather than being given the prize itself.

“Universities are regarded as being ivory towers who don’t actually do any good, and it’s great that we are being recognised for making a difference in the real world.”

The unit was founded in 2000 and works to improve the prevention of stroke and other chronic diseases in older people.

Its work has revolutionised treatment and prevented heart attacks.

Research carried out by the unit showed the risk of major stroke in the first few hours and days after a mini-stroke was much higher than previously thought, and that swift use of existing treatments reduced the risk by 80 per cent.

The unit developed a simple scoring system to identify high-risk people, which is used across the world. In the UK alone, it prevents 10,000 strokes a year.

And the unit’s groundbreaking work on aspirin showed that, in addition to its well-known effects in preventing heart attacks and strokes, it also reduces the long-term risk of several kinds of cancer.

The unit has worked with hundreds of GPs and more than 10,000 patients across Oxfordshire.


  • Prof Andrew Hamilton, right, and Prof Peter Rothwell with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace

Unit research co-ordinator Dr Louise Silver said: “It’s really special to be recognised. As clinical researchers we work with patients all over Oxfordshire and it’s nice for them to see what we do matters.”

University Vice-Chancellor Prof Andrew Hamilton said: “We are delighted that their world-leading work has been recognised in this way.

“With a rapidly ageing global population, the need to address age-related illnesses is a clear priority not just in this country but worldwide.

“Since its inception, the unit has made a great contribution to the field of preventive medicine, revolutionising clinical practice across the globe.

Prof Rothwell added: “This reflects the hard work of the many staff on the unit as well as the support we have received from the University, funders, collaborating GPs and, crucially, from our patients. It is encouraging to have this endorsement for our philosophy that improvements in patient care can be gained by better understanding of known risk factors and more effective use of existing treatments.”

  • Clinical neurologist Professor Peter Rothwell outlines leading stroke and related dementia research, how it is developing earlier recognition of those at risk, improving diagnosis and developing more effective use of existing preventive treatments in July last year