Francesca graduated from the University of Otago, New Zealand (BSc Biochemistry and Human Nutrition in 2002) and obtained a PhD in Human Nutrition from the University of Otago in 2006.
In 2007, Francesca was awarded the Girdlers’ NZ Health Research Council Fellowship to gain advanced research experience at the University of Oxford. During her fellowship she spent three years working at the Cancer Epidemiology Unit on the dietary and nutritional determinants of prostate cancer and biomarkers of prostate cancer risk such as insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) in the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). She then took up a Research Fellow post at the Cancer Epidemiology Unit in 2010 where she was the Principal Investigator of an online 24 hour recall – the Oxford WebQ which she helped to develop, test and is now being administered to participants in large UK cohorts. She also developed an interest in the health effects of vegetarian diets which she investigated in relation to heart disease and diverticular disease in the Oxford arm of the EPIC study.
From 2013 to 2015 she spent some time back in NZ where she worked as a civil servant at the Ministry for Primary Industries as a Senior Adviser in Food Science Innovation where her main role was to evaluate systematic reviews that have been provided by NZ food industry to make a self-substantiated health claims. She also provided scientific advice and input to the work of the Food Science Team on matters relating to systematic reviews, food health claims and the interpretation of evidence from epidemiological studies.
Francesca has conducted public health and epidemiological work focussed on vitamin D. She has authored over 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts to date and is a Lecturer in Epidemiology and Health Informatics.
Francesca is involved in a number of research projects including the MuM-PreDiCT study of multiple-long terms health conditions in pregnancy and the OPTIMAL project that is using AI to optimise the management of health conditions in those with multiple-long terms health conditions. She is collaborating with Cegedim (a health technology company) to develop a pipeline for conducting data-enabled randomised clinical trials using Cegedim Health Data’s anonymised patient database, The Health Improvement Network (THIN®), and Outcomes Manager. The first trial – RADIANT-GDM – will test whether a text message reminder with a short animation sent to women with previous gestational diabetes helps to increase the number of women who are tested for type 2 diabetes. Once this process is established, this will pave the way for other data-enabled clinical trials in primary care.
The success of all Francesca's projects is built on the ground-breaking work by her colleagues who developed a data extraction for epidemiological research (DExtER) tool that uses standardised methods to generate ready-to-analyse extracts and analytical results of electronic health records for epidemiology and pharmaco-epidemiology research.