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08 February 2024

Professor Peter McGuffin (1949 - 2024)

Tribute to Emeritus Professor Peter McGuffin CBE FMedSci, who died at his home in Wales on 30 January 2024.

Peter McGuffin

Peter McGuffin was Emeritus Professor of Psychiatric Genetics at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, and Dean from 2007-2010. He was Director of the Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre from 1998 until his retirement in 2012, and a consultant psychiatrist at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

Through his leadership and remarkable research contributions, Professor McGuffin shaped the landscape of psychiatric genetics, advancing our understanding of the genetic basis of mental illness.

Peter was a towering figure in psychiatric genetics. The success of our current research comes directly from his insights and his leadership – which was matched with his unwavering support of the next generation of clinicians and scientists who are now leading researchers across the world.

Professor Cathryn Lewis, Head of Department, SGDP

Professor McGuffin was first appointed at the Faculty in 1979. Following a period of study at the University of London and then at Washington University in St. Louis, he returned to the UK in 1982 as one of the first appointees to the new MRC Senior Clinical Fellowship scheme and established a genetics research group at the (then) Institute of Psychiatry. His appointment to an MRC clinical training fellowship marked a turning point in psychiatric genetics. He established collaborations, gained training abroad, and proposed European collaborations, including the Molecular Neurobiology of Mental Illness programme, which catalysed psychiatric genetics in Europe.

He was instrumental in advancing the study of psychiatric genetics. Professor McGuffin carried out one of the earliest allelic association studies in psychiatry, pioneered family linkage studies, and spearheaded the application of machine learning and AI in psychiatric genetics – addressing the challenges of big data analysis and advocating for larger sample sizes.

His work laid the groundwork for multicentre collaborations and the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC), which identified significant genetic associations in various psychiatric disorders.

Peter was a dedicated clinician, a nurturing leader, and a world-renowned scientist who believed the best research was always driven by curiosity and a desire for knowledge... It would be difficult to overstate the profound impact Peter’s research had (and continues to have) on psychiatric genetics. His loss will be felt deeply by so many here at IoPPN, in particular by colleagues and friends at the SGDP.

Professor Matthew Hotopf, IoPPN Executive Dean

Professor McGuffin’s array of leadership roles in international societies and prestigious awards reflect his significant contributions to biomedical research and psychiatric genetics. He was elected Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1988 and Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 1989. Between 1996 to 2000 he served as the second president of the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics and in 1998 he became a founding fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, later serving on council.

He received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the International Society for Psychiatric Genetics (2007) and King's College London (2012) and an Honorary Fellowship from Cardiff University (2008). He was awarded a CBE for services to biomedical research and psychiatric genetics in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

You can watch a 2012 video made for Professor McGuffin’s retirement below.

There will be session honouring Professor McGuffin and bestowing the Dobzhansky Award for Lifetime Achievement on 27 June 2024 at Bush House at the annual Behavior Genetics Association conference. This session will include the world premiere of a string quartet composition which Professor McGuffin wrote last year, featuring the renowned Heath Quartet. This will be followed by a eulogy by one of his PhD students, Professor Anita Thapar.

The thoughts and deepest sympathies of the IoPPN community are with Professor McGuffin’s family, colleagues, collaborators, and friends.

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