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Professor Chris Owen

Professor of Epidemiology
Christopher Owen is Professor of Epidemiology in the Population Health Research Institute.

Christopher Owen is Professor of Epidemiology in the Population Health Research Institute, and Head of Section for Chronic Disease Epidemiology.  He carries out population / community-based / hospital based research in both ophthalmic and cardiovascular epidemiology. He also teaches epidemiology and public health to medical students, and is involved in postgraduate supervision.

Professor Owen joined St George's, University of London in 2000 after studying epidemiology at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He is Head of Section for Chronic Disease Epidemciolgoy in the Population Health Research Institute, and was appointed a Professor of Epidemiology in 2015. He has taken on responsibilities in several dimensions.

Professor Owen is responsible for the conception, development, conduct, analysis and writing up of a distinctive programme of epidemiological research (including current work funded by Wellcome Trust and National Institute for Health Research). He has planned and provided teaching in epidemiology and public health to undergraduate medical students and to postgraduate students from a wide range of backgrounds.

He is also a reviewer for a number of general medicine, ophthalmology and specialist journals, including JAMA, Lancet, BMJ, Ophthalmology, American Journal of Epidemiology, Circulation. He is also a reviewer for numerous funding agencies including Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, NIHR, The Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council. Professor Owen has been a member of the Research Funding Committee (RFC) for the NIHR Public Health Research (PHR) programme from June 2015 to June 2021, and he is an expert reviewer for the MRC UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP). He was awarded membership of Faculty of Public Health by distinction in 2012.

The size and shape of retinal blood vessels may have the potential to provide important insights into present and future health. Non-invasive assessment of vascular function, by the detailed assessment of retinal vasculometry, has been an important focus of my research. We have developed a fully automated retinal image analysis system (QUantitative Analysis of ReTinal vessel shape and size – QUARTZ software), which generates a rich quantitative characterisation of retinal vasculature in large volumes of fundus images. We have used QUARTZ to analyse retinal images from large prospective cohort studies in adulthood, including the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC Norfolk – a richly phenotyped data source with 8623 participants) and UK Biobank (a prospective study of 500,000 middle aged adults, 70,000 with retinal images). This has allowed the role of retinal vessel assessment in the prediction of CVD events (as well as other disease outcomes, including ocular, rheumatic and neurodegenerative disease) to be realised. By fostering research links with external investigators, I continue to generate further proposals linked to this work, particularly using AI approaches to analyse retinal images. This includes NIHR funded work evaluating commercial systems for the detection of diabetic retinopathy within the English Diabetic Eye Screening Programme, and Wellcome Trust funded work predicting complications of diabetes using AI applied to retinal images, genetics, and linked electronic health records data. These areas of work are of considerable public health interest, given the potential cost savings to the NHS / healthcare in terms of reduced screening costs, and delayed treatment costs by extending disease free survival.

Christopher G Owen ORCID number

Publications January 2021 to May 2023

  1. Jiang X, Hysi PG, Khawaja AP, Mahroo OA, Xu Z, Hammond CJ, Foster PJ, Welikala RA, Barman SA, Whincup PH, Rudnicka AR, Owen CG, Strachan DP. GWAS on retinal vasculometry phenotypes. PLoS Genet. 2023;19(2):e1010583.
  2. Tapp RJ, Owen CG, Barman SA, Strachan DP, Welikala RA, Foster PJ, Whincup PH, Rudnicka AR, Eyes UKB, Vision C. Retinal microvascular associations with cardiometabolic risk factors differ by diabetes status: results from the UK Biobank. 2022;65(10):1652-1663.
  3. Rudnicka AR, Welikala R, Barman S, Foster PJ, Luben R, Hayat S, Khaw KT, Whincup P, Strachan D, Owen CG. Artificial intelligence-enabled retinal vasculometry for prediction of circulatory mortality, myocardial infarction and stroke. Br J Ophthalmol. 2022;106(12):1722-1729.
  4. Olvera-Barrios A, Mishra AV, Schwartz R, Khatun M, Seltene M, Rutkowska C, Rudnicka AR, Owen CG, Tufail A, C AE. Formal registration of visual impairment in people with diabetic retinopathy significantly underestimates the scale of the problem: a retrospective cohort study at a tertiary care eye hospital service in the UK. Br J Ophthalmol.
  5. Olvera-Barrios A, Kihara Y, Wu Y, A NW, Muller PL, Williams KM, Rudnicka AR, Owen CG, Lee AY, Egan C, Tufail A, Eyes UKB, Vision C. Foveal Curvature and Its Associations in UK Biobank Participants. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2022;63(8):26.
  6. Magee L, Goldsmith LP, Chaudhry UAR, Donin AS, Wahlich C, Stovold E, Nightingale CM, Rudnicka AR, Owen CG. Nonpharmacological Interventions to Lengthen Sleep Duration in Healthy Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatr. 2022;176(11):1084-1097.
  7. Hudda MT, Wells JCK, Adair LS, Alvero-Cruz JRA, Ashby-Thompson MN, Ballesteros-Vasquez MN, Barrera-Exposito J, Caballero B, Carnero EA, Cleghorn GJ, Davies PSW, Desmond M, Devakumar D, Gallagher D, Guerrero-Alcocer EV, Haschke F, Horlick M, Ben Jemaa H, Khan AI, Mankai A, Monyeki MA, Nashandi HL, Ortiz-Hernandez L, Plasqui G, Reichert FF, Robles-Sardin AE, Rush E, Shypailo RJ, Sobiecki JG, Ten Hoor GA, Valdes J, Wickramasinghe VP, Wong WW, Riley RD, Owen CG, Whincup PH, Nightingale CM. External validation of a prediction model for estimating fat mass in children and adolescents in 19 countries: individual participant data meta-analysis. 2022;378:e071185.
  8. Chua SYL, Warwick A, Peto T, Balaskas K, Moore AT, Reisman C, Desai P, Lotery AJ, Dhillon B, Khaw PT, Owen CG, Khawaja AP, Foster PJ, Patel PJ, Eye UKB, Vision C. Association of ambient air pollution with age-related macular degeneration and retinal thickness in UK Biobank. Br J Ophthalmol. 2022;106(5):705-711.
  9. Olvera-Barrios A, Seltene M, Heeren TFC, Chambers R, Bolter L, Tufail A, Owen CG, Rudnicka AR, Egan C, Anderson J. Effect of ethnicity and other sociodemographic factors on attendance at diabetic eye screening: a 12-month retrospective cohort study. BMJ Open. 2021;11(9):e046264.
  10. Hudda MT, Owen CG, Rudnicka AR, Cook DG, Whincup PH, Nightingale CM. Quantifying childhood fat mass: comparison of a novel height-and-weight-based prediction approach with DXA and bioelectrical impedance. Int J Obes (Lond). 2021;45(1):99-103.
  11. Hudda MT, Aarestrup J, Owen CG, Cook DG, Sorensen TIA, Rudnicka AR, Baker JL, Whincup PH, Nightingale CM. Association of Childhood Fat Mass and Weight With Adult-Onset Type 2 Diabetes in Denmark. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(4):e218524.
  12. Heydon P, Egan C, Bolter L, Chambers R, Anderson J, Aldington S, Stratton IM, Scanlon PH, Webster L, Mann S, du Chemin A, Owen CG, Tufail A, Rudnicka AR. Prospective evaluation of an artificial intelligence-enabled algorithm for automated diabetic retinopathy screening of 30 000 patients. Br J Ophthalmol. 2021;105(5):723-728.
  13. Donin AS, Nightingale CM, Perkin MR, Ussher M, Jebb SA, Landberg R, Welsh P, Sattar N, Adab P, Owen CG, Rudnicka AR, Cook DG, Whincup PH. Evaluating an Intervention to Increase Cereal Fiber Intake in Children: A Randomized Controlled Feasibility Trial. J Nutr. 2021;151(2):379-386.

Current grants (as Principal Investigator [PI])

  • Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award ‘Prediction of complications of diabetes mellitus utilising novel retinal image analysis, genetics, and linked electronic health records data.’ Award £1,126,103 over 42 months (April 2022). PIs Christopher Owen (SGUL), Prof Adnan Tufail (UCL); co-applicants Prof Alicja Rudnicka (SGUL), Prof Catherine Egan (MEH), Prof Sarah Barman (Kingston University), Prof Paolo Remagnino (Kingston University), Dr John Anderson (Homerton University Hospital), Dr Aaron Lee (University of Washington, USA), Mr Abraham Olvera-Barrios (UCL), Dr Roy Schwartz (MEH), Prof Reecha Sofat (UCL), Prof Aroon Hingorani (UCL), Dr Rick Ferris (prev NEI/NIH), Prof Emily Chew (NEI/NIH); Named post-docs Dr Alasdair Warwick (UCL), Dr Roshan Welikala (Kingston University). Grant no. 224390/Z/21/Z.
  • Fight for Sight ‘Using English primary care data to examine the vascular aetiology of glaucoma’ Award £15,000 for 12 months (May 2023) PI Christopher Owen, co-applicants Prof. Alicja Rudnicka, (St George's, University of London), Prof. Paul Foster (UCL/Moorfields Eye Hospital).
  • London Health Data Strategy Programme – Data at Scale Improvement Project Call award ‘Prediction of complications of diabetes mellitus utilising pan-London linked electronic health records data’ Cost £250,000 for 12 months (awarded April 2023 subject to approval from the Data Controllers for each of London’s 5 ICBs), PI Dr Iain Roy (SGHFT), co-PI Prof. Christopher Owen (SGUL), co-applicants Prof. Alicja Rudnicka (SGUL), Prof. Adnan Tufail (Moorfields, UCL), Dr John Anderson (Homerton), Prof. Aroon Hingorani (UCL), Dr Dimitrios Moutzouris (GSTT), Dr Luke Dixon (Imperial), Dr Philip James (GOS).

Current grants (as co-applicant)

  • Chan Zuckerberg Initiative award ‘Repeat retinal imaging of 60,000 UK Biobank participants for dementia diagnostics discovery’ Award £2M for 24 months (November 2022), PI Prof. Paul Foster (UCL), co-applicants Dr Thomas MacGillivray (University of Edinburgh), Dr Denise Atan (University of Bristol), Dr Axel Petzold (UCL), Prof. Alicja Rudnicka, Prof. Christopher Owen (SGUL), Mr Praveen Patel (Moorfields, UCL).
  • NIHR AI and racial and ethnic inequalities in health and care award ‘Ethnic differences in performance and perceptions of Artificial Intelligence retinal image analysis systems for the detection of diabetic retinopathy in the NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme’ Cost £499,160 for 24 months (October 2021), PI Prof. Alicja Rudnicka (SGUL), co-PI Prof. Adnan Tufail (Moorfields Eye Hospital/UCL), co-applicants Prof. Christopher Owen (SGUL), Dr. John Anderson (Homerton University Hospital), Prof. Catherine Egan (Moorfields Eye Hospital/UCL), Prof. Sarah Barman (Kingston University), Prof. Aaron Lee (University of Washington, USA), Prof. Paolo Remagnino (Kingston University). Grant no. AI_HI200008.
  • Policy Support Fund and Participatory Research Fund, St George’s, University of London – ‘Exploring perceptions and concerns among NHS staff and people living with diabetes about the potential deployment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems in the English NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (DESP)’ Award £9,000 for 12 months (Feb 2023), PIs Miss Kathryn Willis (SGUL), Prof. Alicja Rudnicka (SGUL), co-applicants Dr Umar Chaudhry (SGUL), Dr Lakshmi Chandrasekaran (SGUL), Dr Charlotte Wahlich (SGUL), Prof. Christopher Owen (SGUL).


Internal collaborations

Professor Alicja Rudnicka

Miss Kathryn Willis, Dr Charlotte Wahlich, Dr Umar Chaudhry, Dr Lakshmi Chandrasekaran

Dr Mohammed Hudda, Professor Peter Whincup

External collaborations

Professor Sarah Barman, Dr Roshan Welikala, Dr Jiri Fajtl – (Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing, Kingston University, London)

Professor Paul Foster, Professor Adnan Tufail, Miss Cathy Egan – (Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, Institute of Ophthalmology, UCL)

AI Retinal Image Analysis System (ARIAS) Research Group - including researchers from Moorfields, Institute of Ophthalmology, UCL, Homerton University Hospital, NIH and University of Washington, USA

UK Biobank Eyes and Vision Consortium

Professor Owen has developed and delivered teaching in epidemiology and public health to undergraduates (both on the medicine and biomedical science degree courses) and postgraduates. He is involved in lecturing, small group teaching, examination setting and marking at both levels, as well as postgraduate (PhD) supervision.

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