About this event

  • Date and time Thu 2 Dec 2021 from 6:30pm to 7:30pm
  • Location Online
  • Organised by Public Engagement Programme, The Howard Foundation, Diabetes UK

This is the live stream for The Alan Howard Memorial Lecture taking place at RSM. To attend the event in London please click here.

A hundred years ago, the hormone insulin was purified as a pancreatic extract capable of regulating blood glucose and rapidly turned into a life-saving therapy for people with insulin-deficient forms of diabetes.

Professor Sir Stephen O'Rahilly, Professor of Clinical Biochemistry and Medicine, Director, MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit, Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science, University of Cambridge, UK, will give an insightful lecture reflecting on the advances in our understanding of the hormonal control of metabolism and energy balance that has occurred over the past century, and how these advancements have led to improvements in the diagnosis and therapy of metabolic disease. 

Mr Chris Askew OBE, CEO, Diabetes UK, will also give a short talk on current patient perspectives and the important work of Diabetes UK. 

Professor Sir John Cunningham, Professor of Nephrology, University College London Medical School and The Royal Free Hospital, and previous personal Physician to the Queen, will be chairing the Howard Memorial Lecture.

If you would like to participate in the Q&A please submit any questions via email to public@rsm.ac.uk with 'Alan Howard Lecture - Q&A' as the email subject line before Tuesday 30 November. 

The RSM would like to thank The Howard Foundation for their support of this hybrid event.

Dr Alan Howard (1929-2020)

Born in Norwich in 1929, Alan Howard won a scholarship to Downing College Cambridge in 1948, gaining his MA and PhD in 1955. He spent over 70 years connected with Downing as student, researcher, teacher and benefactor.

Dr Howard became a leading scientist in the fields of atherosclerosis, obesity and latterly nutrition. He published extensively, was writer and editor of books and journals, and organiser of international conferences.

He is most widely known as the inventor of a very low-calorie diet, known as the Cambridge Diet, the result of many years of research and clinical trials in the 1960’s and 1970’s. This became a patented formula that sold widely in America and Europe in the 1980s, and continues to flourish today through the company he founded, now known as Cambridge Weightplan.

For the final 20 years of his life, Alan led research into the role of macular carotenoids on vision and memory, latterly working with the Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland.

In 1982 he created an English charitable trust, the Howard Foundation, which has supported numerous scientific research projects. The Foundation has also donated generously to Downing College, enabling the construction of three buildings including a magnificent neoclassical theatre. His son Jon, and daughter Julie, lawyer and dietitian respectively, continue to run the Howard Foundation alongside two other Trustees.

Dr Howard died aged 91 in June 2020. His legacy continues with both the work of the Howard Foundation and BON, the Brain and Optical Nutrition network of scientists


Join in the conversation online #RSMLive
Follow the us on Twitter @RoySocMed

Speaker Twitter handles include: @StephenORahilly, @DiabetesUK, @ChrisAskewCE, and @DrHilaryJones

Key speakers

Sir Stephen O'Rahilly

Professor Sir Stephen O'Rahilly

Professor of Clinical Biochemistry and Medicine, Director, MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit, Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science, University of Cambridge, UK 

Speaker's biography

Professor O’Rahilly’s research has been concerned with the elucidation of the fundamental mechanisms underlying obesity, insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes and the translation of those discoveries into improvements in patient care. His work has uncovered several previously unrecognised genetic causes of these diseases including some that are amenable to specific treatments.


Professor O'Rahilly graduated in Medicine from University College Dublin in 1981. From 1982 to 1991 he undertook postgraduate clinical and research training in general medicine, diabetes and endocrinology in London, Oxford and Harvard. In 1991 he obtained a Wellcome Trust Senior Clinical Fellowship and established his laboratory at the University of Cambridge. In 1996 he was appointed to a newly created Chair of Metabolic Medicine and in 2002 to the Chair of Clinical Biochemistry and Medicine.


He is Co-Director of the Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science (IMS), the establishment of which he led. Within the IMS, he is Director of the MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit and the Metabolic Research Laboratories of the University of Cambridge. He is also Scientific Director, NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, Honorary Consultant Physician at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, a Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge and an Associate Faculty Member of the Wellcome Sanger Institute.


Professor O'Rahilly has undertaken a substantial body of public service work for research charities, educational institutions and governmental organisations in the UK, Ireland and elsewhere. 


He has won many awards including the Heinrich Wieland Prize, the Inbev Baillet Latour Prize, the Zülch Prize, the European Hormone Medal, the first EASD/Novo Nordisk Foundation Diabetes Prize for Excellence and the Banting Medal for Scientific Achievement.


He gave the Harveian Oration of the Royal College of Physicians, London, in 2016. He was elected to the Royal Society in 2003, a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences USA in 2011, is an Honorary Member of the German Society for Internal Medicine and the Royal Irish Academy. He also holds honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Dundee, Warwick, Buckingham, University College Dublin and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.


He was appointed Knight Bachelor in 2013. 

Mr Chris Askew

CEO, Diabetes UK


View the programme here

Welcome and introduction

Professor Sir John Cunningham, Professor of Nephrology, University College London Medical School and The Royal Free Hospital, and Honorary Fellowship, Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge

Celebrating the centenary of insulin: The endocrine control of energy balance and metabolism and its disturbance in disease

Professor Sir Stephen O'Rahilly, Professor of Clinical Biochemistry and Medicine, Director, MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit, Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science, University of Cambridge

Patient perspective and the work of Diabetes UK

Mr Chris Askew, CEO, Diabetes UK


Chair: Professor Sir John Cunningham
with Professor Sir Stephen O'Rahilly and Mr Chris Askew

Closing remarks and close of meeting



Registration for this live stream will close 2 hours before the start time. Late registration will not be accepted. 


Special rates for difficult times

The RSM wishes to offer healthcare professionals continued learning opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic. The RSM’s weekly COVID-19 Series webinars remain free of charge, while there will be small charges to register for other online education. These fees will enable the RSM to continue its programme of activities and will apply during the course of the pandemic.

Registration for this meeting will close 24 hours prior to the start time.

If UK government guidelines and restrictions change, the format of this event will be updated to comply, and all delegates will be notified via email.