Putting Bradford on the big pharma map and giving the district a health check
Honorary professor talks candidly about his career and ambitions
Prof Dinesh Saralaya recalls that when he was young, despite the family being Hindu, his mother sent him to a Catholic school in Madras (now known as Chennai), essentially, to broaden his horizons.
The Consultant Respiratory Physician at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has certainly done that. He is director of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) patient recruitment centre in Bradford.
Well respected in his field, he has run clinical trials for 11 years and forged important links with big pharma - undoubtedly one of the reasons the Novavax Covid-19 Vaccine trial came to Bradford.
Now he has another string to his bow, in the form of an honorary visiting professorship from the University of Bradford. But despite his many accomplishments in life, he remains fastidious and humble and focused on improving the health of people in the local area.
“I have worked in Bradford for 19 years, we established the clinical trials unit here in 2009 and it has grown to become one of most reputable centres in the world. That’s why today, Bradford is one of only two cities in Yorkshire to host the Novavax Covid 19 Vaccine trial.
“We need to be doing more research of this kind in communities. Bradford is a city of high economic deprivation but also has higher than the national average levels of various illnesses, such as asthma, COPD, diabetes and heart diseases. I can use my links to get this level of clinical research where it’s most needed.”
Prof Saralaya grew up in Madras, graduating from its university and gaining a doctorate in Medicine, before coming to the UK in 1995. He achieved an University Gold Medal for having stood first in his doctorate exams in 1994. His father, Lakshmi Narayana, was also a doctor. Prof Saralaya became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1997 and after training in various parts of the country, came to Bradford in 2001 as a senior registrar and was appointed consultant at BTHFT in 2004.
He has pioneered the use of Omalizumab in the treatment of severe allergic asthma and has been involved in ‘mist’ clinical trials involving the newer biologic treatment in severe asthma. In 2016, Dinesh was the leading investigator in the APEX 2 study, which was the largest study in the UK on the effectiveness of Omalizumab in the treatment of severe allergic asthma.
Asked what his honorary professorship meant, he said: “I am delighted to be joining the Faculty of Life Sciences and will be working to forge links between colleague at Bradford and the life sciences industry but more importantly I will be using my previous track record of extensively being involved in research, alongside the skills provided by the University, to benefit the city of Bradford. I’m very excited about this opportunity.
“As a consultant respiratory physician, I’m concerned about the health inequalities in this area. Bradford has an asthma rate which is above 10 per cent, whereas the national average is 8.5. It also has higher proportions of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and this is due to things like cigarette smoking, health education and so on. That is why it’s so important to do research. I have run asthma trials across the world. The clinical trials unit in Bradford is recognised as being in the top five severe asthma trials units in the UK and one of the best in the world.”
Recently, it was announced the University of Bradford’s Digital Health Enterprise Zone is hosting one of the world’s first mass Covid-19 vaccine trials, run by US biotechnology company Novavax in conjunction with Bradford Institute for Health Research (BIHR), part of the Bradford Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
In 2015 and 2016 Dr Saralaya was awarded the best Principal Investigator Award for the UK for his delivery into the commercial respiratory research portfolio by NIHR. In 2014, Dr Saralaya was appointed Associate Director of Research at the BIHR and has grown the institute’s commercial research portfolio to over £1.25 million pounds annually. In 2019 he was awarded the joint NIHR/ Royal College of Physicians award for research in England for the year 2018-19
Prof Saralaya now lives in Bingley with his wife Sudha with whom he has a son and cites a love of travel, politics and history among his passions.