Professor G. Neil Thomas BSc (Hons), MPhil, PhD

Professor Neil G Thomas

Institute of Applied Health Research
Professor in Epidemiology and Research Methods

Contact details

Institute of Applied Health Research
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Professor Thomas is the Regional Director, NIHR Research Design Service West Midlands and Professor of Epidemiology and Research Methods in the Institute of Applied Health Research of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences, The University of Birmingham. 

Professor Thomas has an international portfolio of research in Europe, Africa and Asia investigating in the fields of cardiovascular disease epidemiology, prevention and control with a particular focus on atrial fibrillation, air pollution and lifestyle exposures. Major recent or ongoing studies include the NIHR Global Group in Atrial Fibrillation management, Brazil, China, and Sri Lanka; Elderly Health Centres Study (air pollution, lifestyle, mortality outcomes), Hong Kong; the 30,000 plus Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study (lifestyle, chronic disease outcomes), China; and one of the largest CVD endpoint studies assessing the effectiveness of a PolyPill in Iran (CVD, mortality outcomes).

He has published over 300 in indexed, peer-reviewed journals and has an H-index of 67 (Google Scholar). These are predominantly in the area of cardiometabolic disease epidemiology. He is involved in over £35 million in funding (over £13M as PI). He is a number of national and international funding agencies, including as Panel Chair.

Professor Thomas has an active teaching role in under- and postgraduate studies. He is the Co-Director, Master of Health Research Methods (HRM) Programme. 


  • PhD Medical Sciences 1999. Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.  Dissertation title: Anthropometric, biochemical and genetic factors associated with blood pressure.
  • MPhil Pathological Sciences, 1995. Department of Microbiology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.  Dissertation title: Genotyping of the rotavirus outer capsid protein gene (VP7) by RT-PCR
  • BSc (Hons) Applied Biology, 1989.  Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK 


Professor Thomas completed his PhD in the genetic epidemiology of hypertension at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics. He then took up an academic post in 2002 in the Department of Public Health and Epidemiology (later the School of Public Health) at the University of Hong Kong to help coordinate the initiation of the Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study.

In the summer of 2007, he took up the post of Reader in Epidemiology, Public Health and Biostatistics, now the Institute of Applied Health Research, of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences at the University of Birmingham. In 2017, he was made Professor of Epidemiology and Research Methods.  He is the Co-Director of the MSc Health Research Methods programme.

Professor Thomas is also Regional Director of the NIHR Research Design Service West Midlands. 


  • College Quality Assurance and Approval Committee
  • Co-Director, Master of Health Research Methods (HRM) Programme

Teaching Programmes

Postgraduate supervision

Professor Thomas is interested in supervising doctoral research students in the following general areas:

  • Determinants of cardiovascular disease, particularly atrial fibrillation,  morbidity and mortality.
  • Approaches to attenuate cardiovascular disease and associated risk factors.
  • Health consequences of air pollution.

If you are interesting in studying any of these subject areas please contact Professor Thomas on the contact details above or through

Professor Thomas has successfully supervised 17 PhD/MD students, and is currently supervising 5.

Publications from students have included:

M Yuan, M Tan, D Moore, S Shen, X Qiu, GN Thomas, KK Cheng. Timing of cow's milk or cow's milk formula introduction to the infant diet and atopic risk in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2019 In press

TF Olufunlayo, AA Roberts, C MacArthur, GN Thomas, KA Odeyemi, M Price, K Jolly. Interventions to improve breastfeeding exclusivity in low-and middle-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Maternal & Child Nutrition 2019 In press 

N Ahmad, GN Thomas, P Gill, F Torella. The prevalence of major lower limb amputation in the diabetic and non-diabetic population of England 2003-2013. Diabetes and Vascular Disease Research. 13(5): 348-53; 2016.

C Stradling, GN Thomas*, K Hemming, G Frost, I Garcia-Perez, S Redwood, S Taheri. Randomised controlled pilot study to assess the feasibility of a Mediterranean Portfolio dietary intervention for cardiovascular risk reduction in HIV dyslipidaemia: a study protocol. BMJ Open. 6(2): e010821; 2016.

WB Leong, F Jadhakhan, S Taheri, YF Chen, P Adab, GN Thomas. The effect of obstructive sleep apnoea on diabetic retinopathy and maculopathy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetic Medicine. 33(2): 158-168; 2016. Citation impact factor: 3.115, ISI Endocrinology & Metabolism Rank 59/128

AC Jagielski, CQ Jiang, L Xu, S Taheri, WS Zhang, KK Cheng, TH Lam, GN Thomas*. Glycaemia is associated with cognitive impairment in older adults: The Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study. Age and Ageing. 44(1): 65-71; 2014.

Bό Hartaigh, JA Bosch, D Carroll, K Hemming, S Pilz, A Loerbroks, ME Kleber, TB Grammer, JE Fischer, BO Boehm, W März, GN Thomas*. Evidence of a synergistic association between heart rate, inflammation, and cardiovascular mortality in patients undergoing coronary angiography. European Heart Journal. 34(12):932-941; 2013.

T Arora, CQ Jiang, GN Thomas, KH Lam, WS Zhang, KK Cheng, TH Lam, S Taheri. Self-reported long total sleep duration is associated with the metabolic syndrome: The Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study. Diabetes Care. 34: 2317-2319; 2011

M Talaei, M Sadeghi, T Marshall, GN Thomas, P Kabiri, S Hoseini, N Sarrafzadegan. Impact of metabolic syndrome on ischemic heart disease - A prospective cohort study in an Iranian adult population: Isfahan Cohort Study. Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases. 22(5): 434-441; 2012

XQ Lao, CQ Jiang, WS Zhang, P Adab, TH Lam, KK Cheng, GN Thomas. Smoking, smoking cessation and inflammatory markers in older Chinese men: The Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study. Atherosclerosis. 203:304-310; 2009

HB Deng, DJ Macfarlane, GN Thomas*, XQ Lao, CQ Jiang, KK Cheng, TH Lam. Reliability and validity of the IPAQ-Chinese: The Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 40:303-307; 2008 


Research themes

Ageing, Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Epidemiology, Lifestyle, Public Health

Research activity

Professor Thomas' research is at the cutting edge of understanding cardiometabolic conditions that place a significant burden on healthcare services and society as a whole. This understanding is coupled with intervention studies that inform disease prevention and patient care.

There are two main components to his research: Firstly, epidemiological studies which are designed to investigate environmental (air pollution, temperature), lifestyle (diet, physical activity, sleep) and genetic factors contributing to cardiometabolic disease risk factors (Type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension and dyslipidaemia) and associated morbidity (cardiovascular disease, eg atrial fibrillation, stroke) and mortality, and; secondly in the management and prevention of these conditions, using pharmacological agents and lifestyle/behavioural modifications. His contribution to the first component has resulted in greater appreciation of the pathogenesis of these diseases and has helped in development of more effective therapeutic interventions, which can be used intensively in those identified to be at greatest risk.  In this manner, the application of this scientific research has been directly used to alleviate morbidity and mortality in patients with these conditions and thus provide direct benefit.  Work related to the second component has led to a series of interventional studies targeting physical activity and diet and specific pharmacological agents in general populations and in specific patient groups to improve health indicators and reduce morbidity and mortality.

His work has been recognised as influential in healthcare as demonstrated by the publication in distinguished general medical journals such as the Lancet, Science and BMJ, as well as top specialist journals, including Eur Heart J, Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, Stroke, and Diabetes Care.

Significant specific studies include:

NIHR Global Health Research Group on Atrial Fibrillation management(Co-PI)

Guangzhou Biobank Cohort study ( and CVD subcohort (Co-PI,

30,000 subjects recruited over 3 phases to study the pathogenesis of chronic diseases. The first 6 year follow-up has now been completed with 18,000 revisiting the hospital and 2,400 deaths documented. Vital status has been determined in over 99%.

Elderly Health Centres Study

A prospective cohort of over 66,000 individuals, accounting for 9% of the 65 or older population from 18 Elderly Health Centres were established to deliver health examinations and primary care services for older adults in Hong Kong. Over 10,000 deaths have been documented (

Hong Kong Cardiovascular Risk Factor Study

A prospective cohort of 3,000 Chinese subjects for which 12 year follow-up data is now available (

PolyIran study

A randomised controlled trial of 7,000 subjects to investigate the impact of a Polypill on primary and secondary cardiovascular events in Golestan, Iran (


Professor Thomas has published over 300 articles.  Using Google Scholar Citations, his publications have received over 18,000 citations generating an H-index of 67, and i10-index of 246.

A selection of articles from international peer-reviewed journals highlighting the range of interests

Gooden TE, Gardner M, Wang J, Jolly K, Lane DA, Benjamin LA, Mwandumba HC, Kandoole V, Lwanga IB, Taylor S, Manaseki-Holland S, Lip GYH, Nirantharakumar K, Thomas GN. Incidence of cardiometabolic diseases in people living with and without HIV in the UK: a population-based matched cohort study. J Infect Dis. 2021 Aug 21:jiab420.

Hindricks G, Potpara T, Dagres N, Arbelo E, Bax JJ, Blomström-Lundqvist C, Boriani G, Castella M, Dan GA, Dilaveris PE, Fauchier L, Filippatos G, Kalman JM, La Meir M, Lane DA, Lebeau JP, Lettino M, Lip GYH, Pinto FJ, Thomas GN, Valgimigli M, Van Gelder IC, Van Putte BP, Watkins CL; ESC Scientific Document Group. 2020 ESC Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of atrial fibrillation developed in collaboration with the European Association of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery (EACTS). Eur Heart J. 42(5):373-498;2020.

G Roshandel, M Khoshnia, H Poustchi, K Hemming, F Kamangar, A Gharavi, MR Ostovaneh, A Nateghi, M Majed, B Navabakhsh, S Merat, A Pourshams, M Nalini, F Malekzadeh, M Sadeghi, N Mohammadifard, N Sarrafzadegan, M Naemi-Tabiei, A Fazel, P Brennan, A Etemadi, P Boffetta, GN Thomas, T Marshall, KK Cheng, R Malekzadeh. Effectiveness of polypill for primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular diseases (PolyIran): a pragmatic, cluster-randomised trial. Lancet 394 (10199): 672-683; 2019

R Thayakaran, NJ Adderley, C Sainsbury, B Torlinska, K Boelaert, D Šumilo, M Price, GN Thomas, KA Toulis, K Nirantharakumar. Thyroid replacement therapy, thyroid stimulating hormone concentrations, and long term health outcomes in patients with hypothyroidism: longitudinal study. BMJ. 366:l4892; 2019.

XQ Lao, HB Deng, X Liu, TC Chan, Z Zhang, LY Chang, EK Yeoh, T Tam, MCS Wong, GN Thomas. Increased leisure-time physical activity associated with lower onset of diabetes in 44,828 adults with impaired fasting glucose: A population based prospective cohort study. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 53(14):895-900; 2019.

B Daly, KA Toulis, GN Thomas, K Gokhale, J Martin, J Webber, D Keerthy, K Jolly, P Saravanan, K Nirantharakumar. Increased risk of ischemic heart disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes in women with previous gestational diabetes mellitus, a target group in general practice for preventive interventions: A population-based cohort study. PLoS Med. 15(1):e1002488; 2018

R Caleyachetty, GN Thomas*, KA Toulis, N Mohammed, KM Gokhalea, K Balachandran, K Nirantharakumar. Metabolically healthy obese and incident cardiovascular disease events among 3.5 million men and women. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 70(12): 1429-1437; 2017

CM Wong, H Tsang, HK Lai, GN Thomas*, KB Lam, KP Chan, Q Zheng, JG Ayres, SY Lee, TH Lam, TQ Thach. Cancer mortality risks from long-term exposure to ambient fine particle. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 25 (5): 839-845; 2016.

CM Wong, HK Lai, H Tsang, TQ Thach, GN Thomas, KB Lam, KP Chan, L Yang, AK Lau, JG Ayres, SY Lee, WM Chan, AJ Hedley, TH Lam. Satellite-based estimates of long-term exposure to fine particles and association with mortality in elderly Hong Kong residents. Environmental Health Perspectives. 123 (11): 1167-1172; 2015.

GN Thomas, MP Wang, SY Ho, KH Mak, KK Cheng, TH Lam. Adverse lifestyle leads to an annual excess of 2 million deaths in China. PLoS One. 26;9 (2):e89650; 2014

Bό Hartaigh, JA Bosch, D Carroll, K Hemming, S Pilz, A Loerbroks, ME Kleber, TB Grammer, JE Fischer, BO Boehm, W März, GN Thomas*. Evidence of a synergistic association between heart rate, inflammation, and cardiovascular mortality in patients undergoing coronary angiography. European Heart Journal. 34 (12):932-941; 2013.

T Arora, S Hussain, KBH Lam, GL Yao, GN Thomas, S Taheri. Exploring the complex pathways among specific types of technology, self-reported sleep duration and body mass index in UK adolescents. International Journal of Obesity. 37 (9): 1254-1260; 2013.

GN Thomas, B ό Hartaigh, J Bosch, S Pilz, A Loerbroks, ME Kleber, TB. Grammer, BO Böhm, W März Vitamin D levels predict all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in subjects with the metabolic syndrome: The Ludwigshafen Risk and
Cardiovascular Health (LURIC) Study. Diabetes Care. 35 (5):1158-1164; 2012.

GN Thomas*, DJ Macfarlane, B Guo, BMY Cheung, SM McGhee, KL Chou, JJ Deeks, TH Lam, B Tomlinson. Health promotion in older Chinese: 12-mo cluster RCT of pedometry and 'peer support'. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 44(6): 1157-1166; 2012.

GN Thomas*, AC Phillips, D Carroll, CR. Gale, GD Batty. The metabolic syndrome adds utility to the prediction of mortality over its components: the Vietnam Experience Study. Atherosclerosis. 210 (10): 256-261; 2010.

CQ Jiang, TH Lam, JM Lin, B Liu, XJ Yue, KK Cheng, B Tomlinson, KS Wong, BMY Cheung, GN Thomas*. An overview of the Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study-Cardiovascular Disease Subcohort (GBCS-CVD): a platform for multidisciplinary collaboration. Journal of Human Hypertension. 24 (2):139-150; 2010.

GN Thomas*, AWL Hong, B Tomlinson, E Lau, CWK Lam, JE Sanderson, J Woo. Effects of Tai Chi and resistance training on cardiovascular risk factors in the elderly: A 12 month longitudinal, randomized, controlled intervention study. Clinical Endocrinology. 63:663-669; 2005.

SM McGhee, SY Ho, M Schooling, LM Ho, GN Thomas, AJ Hedley, KH Mak, R Peto, TH Lam. Mortality associated with passive smoking in Hong Kong. British Medical Journal. 330: 287-288; 2005.

GN Thomas, JW Lin, WWM Lam, B Tomlinson, V Yeung, JCN Chan, R Liu, and KS Wong. Increasing severity of cardiovascular risk factors with increasing middle cerebral artery stenotic involvement in Type 2 diabetic Chinese patients with asymptomatic cerebrovascular disease. Diabetes Care. 27 (5): 1121-1126; 2004.

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