Professor Dominic Kwiatkowski, Professor of Tropical Paediatrics at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, and a former Big Data Institute group leader, passed away on 27 April 2023 at the age of 69.
Professor Kwiatkowski's contributions to the field of genetics research were numerous and significant, particularly in his work on malaria. He focused on developing genomic and computational tools to gain a deep understanding of how human interventions profile evolutionary changes in the parasite and mosquito populations.
His research journey started in 1985 in Charles Dinarello's laboratory in Boston where he worked on cytokines. The following year he studied the molecular mechanism of malaria fever with Brian Greenwood at the Medical Research Council Unit in The Gambia. Dominic was trained in clinical paediatrics. In 1989, he moved to the Oxford University Department of Paediatrics while maintaining a clinical research programme in The Gambia. His group started working on genetics, as a way of getting at basic questions about malaria pathogenesis.
In 2000, his laboratory moved to the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, and in 2005 he took up a joint appointment at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.
In 2005, he founded the MalariaGEN network which made a huge impact, not only on the science of genomic epidemiology but also on equitable data sharing and capacity building for genomic surveillance in Africa. He focussed on developing MalariaGEN’s governance framework and independence as an organisation enabling data sharing for national malaria control programmes as well as the international scientific community.
MalariaGEN is now a data-sharing network of partners in over 40 countries who build and share large-scale human, malaria parasite, and mosquito data resources. He was also a key player in the establishment of the Covid-19 Genomics Consortium UK (COG-UK) in March 2020, with many of his own team pivoting to sequence thousands of virus samples.
His ground-breaking work has had a profound impact on the field of malaria research and has contributed significantly to our understanding of this devastating disease. He was awarded many prestigious fellowships including the Fellowship of the Royal Society, Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences, and Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians.
Professor Cecilia Lindgren, Director of the Big Data Institute, said ‘Dominic was a titan in the field, a friend, collaborator and colleague to all of us. He had a huge impact during his career, making seminal contributions that advanced our understanding of malaria and the genetic mechanisms of resistance to the disease.
‘He committed his career to saving the lives of those affected by the disease, mostly young children, and pioneered genetic studies of malaria – host and pathogen – in Africa. He was a sought after and incredible mentor, especially championing early career researchers. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.’
Professor Kwiatkowski retired from his faculty position in 2022. He had been looking forward to spending more time supporting colleagues around the world in their malaria surveillance efforts when he passed away suddenly at home. He is survived by his wife Janice Giffen, four children and three grandchildren.
Professor Kwiatkowski's legacy will continue to inspire and guide future generations of scientists and researchers in the pursuit of a better understanding of human health. His extensive research and expertise were highly regarded by his peers, and his loss is deeply felt by the scientific community.
Read a detailed obituary in The Guardian.