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Sandy Raeburn obituary: Distinguished genetic disease researcher dies

24 September 2018
Appeared in BioNews 968

The clinician and world authority on inherited diseases, Professor John Alexander Raeburn – affectionately known as Sandy – has died aged 77.

Specialising in genetic condition such as cystic fibrosis and Down's Syndrome, Professor Raeburn held clinical and research positions in the UK, the Netherlands and Oman. 

Among his professional achievements, Professor Raeburn set up a clinic for young adult cystic fibrosis at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, helped establish the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, and served as chairman of the Scottish Down's Syndrome Association from 1983 to 1984. 

Professor Raeburn contributed to BioNews from 2010 to 2016, writing on topics from epigenetics to the ethics of transnational genetic research

Professor Raeburn was born in Adlington, Cheshire in 1941 into a medical family. Both his grandfathers were doctors and his father, Hugh Adair Raeburn, served on the hygiene directorate during the Second World War. 

After studying medicine at Edinburgh University and graduating in 1964, Professor Raeburn worked in several hospitals in Edinburgh. He then took a position as lecturer of therapeutics at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands in 1972. In Leiden, he began researching infectious diseases, eventually gaining a PhD in antibiotics and human phagocytic cells. 

In 1973, Professor Raeburn returned to Edinburgh University as a senior lecturer in human genetics, a role he held until 1990, when he became chair of clinical genetics at University of Nottingham. In 2003, he moved to take up a position as professor of genetics at the Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, Oman. 

He leaves his wife Arlene, five children and eight grandchildren.

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