Paul studies the complex interplay between genetic and environmental risk factors in the aetiology of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other complex traits.
Research line 1: Epigenetic factors, fetal programming, and early-life risk factors for type 2 diabetes and premature death. These studies illustrated that gestational glucose tolerance (Diabetes, 2006) and the child’s predisposition to central obesity, hyperglycemia and hypertension are important risk factors for young onset type 2 diabetes (Diabetes, 2007) and premature death (NEJM, 2010). This led us to examine the role physical activity, diet and weight gain play in these processes (BMC Pregnancy & Childhealth, 2011).
Research line 2: The interplay between DNA variation and lifestyle factors such as physical activity, diet and smoking in relation to type 2 diabetes and CVD. These studies, conducted in epidemiologic cohorts and clinical trials, include large-scale investiagtions of the FTO locus and physical activity in relation to obesity and type 2 diabetes risk (Diabetologia, 2008/09; NEJM 2008; PLoS Med, 2011), studies of dietary zinc and whole grain intake and interactions with loci at the zinc transporter SLC30A8 (Diabetes, 2011) and GCKR (Diabetes Care, 2010), respectively.
Paul Franks obtained a masters degree in epidemiology and biostatistics (2000) and a PhD in genetic epidemiology (2003) from the Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge. The topic of his doctoral thesis was the interaction of genetic and lifestyle factors in the aetiology of type 2 diabetes. Dr. Franks undertook a post-doctoral fellowship (2003-05) at the NIDDK epidemiology and clinical research branch in Phoenix, Arizona, where he focused on the genetic and molecular epidemiology of type 2 diabetes. Whilst at NIDDK, Franks helped establish the Genetics Working Group for the Diabetes Prevention Program, an NIH-funded randomized clinical trial of intensive lifestyle intervention and pharmacotherapy, led by Dr Jose Florez (Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts).
After completing his post-doc at NIDDK, and a brief spell in Cambridge at the MRC Epidemiology Unit, he was appointed as an associate professor (2006) at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University. In Umeå, Franks established the GLACIER Study, a prospecitve cohort study nested within the Umeå Medical Biobank. The richly phenotyped GLACIER Study, which involves around 20,000 adults, is designed for the investigation of gene-lifestyle interactions on complex disease traits. Dr Franks´ group also conducted studies of energy-balance behaviors in pregnancy, intrauterine programming, and metabolic dysregulation in infants. In 2009, Franks was awarded a prestigious sabbatical fellowship from the Swedish Research Council to work at the Harvard School of Public Health (Boston, MA), hosted by Prof. Frank Hu. Here Franks worked on studies of gene-lifestyle interactions in the Nurses´Health Study and the Health Professionals´ Follow-up Study. In 2010, Dr Franks was appointed Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at Lund University Diabetes Centre in Malmö, Sweden and an adjunct professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, where he is actively involved in teaching and research. In Lund, Dr. Franks leads the Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology Unit.
Prof. Franks has received awards from the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, the Association for the Study of Obesity, the American Colleges of Sports Medicine, and other organizations for his research on gene x environment interactions. He has also served on the scientific advisory board of the LifeGene Study (2007-09), external review boards for the French National Institutes of Health (INSERM) (2008 & 2009), and the German National Cohort (2011), and on the editorial review boards of Hypertension (2007-10), BMC Medical Genomics (2009>), and Frontiers In Genetics (2010>). He has served as a peer reviewer for more than 40 journals, including AJHG, JAMA, Circulation, PLoS Genetics, and Diabetologia, and more than 20 grant agencies, including the AAAS, MRC, Wellcome Trust, the World Cancer Research Fund, and Diabetes UK. He is also a principal member of the Governing Board of LUDC, leading the focus area of Genetic Epidemiology & Clinical Trials. Franks has authored around 150 original research articles, reviews, chapters and editorials in journals such as New England Journal of Medicine, Nature Genetics, Diabetes, Human Molecular Genetics and PLoS Genetics, and he is the Principal Investigator on roughly 35 awarded grants from national and international funding agencies. His research interests remain focused on early-life risk factors and gene-lifestyle interactions as they relate to type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
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