Dr James Watson becomes IDDO’s new Associate Director

The Infectious Diseases Data Observatory (IDDO) is delighted to announce that Dr James Watson has been appointed as the new Associate Director from March 2023.

Image of Dr James Watson
Dr James Watson

James takes over from Laura Merson, who has been leading new initiatives in data sharing for emerging infections at IDDO since 2015.

James is a statistician whose research focuses on the treatment of infectious diseases. James holds a Wellcome-funded Henry Dale Fellowship on improving the diagnosis and treatment of severe falciparum malaria. James also works on Plasmodium vivax malaria, COVID-19, and Chagas disease. He is currently based at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Viet Nam and will transition to Oxford during his fellowship.

Professor Philippe Guérin, Director of IDDO said: “We are thrilled to welcome James’ expertise to the team, and look forward to the impact that his breadth of experience will bring to IDDO’s efforts to maximise the value of data reuse and open science.”

Prior to taking up his Fellowship, James was a post-doctoral researcher at the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU), Bangkok. He received his doctorate in Statistics from the University of Oxford, and holds a first-class honours degree in Mathematics and Computer Science, also from Oxford. Alongside his deep expertise on a range of diseases within IDDO’s portfolio, James has published on machine learning, pharmacometric modelling, and trial design.

James’ recent research looked at the efficacy of tafenoquine for the radical cure of vivax malaria. Tafenoquine’s main advantage is that it can be taken as a single dose, unlike primaquine, the current treatment, which needs to be taken daily for 7–14 days. His work, using WWARN-hosted data, found strong evidence that the currently recommended adult dose of tafenoquine is insufficient for radical cure in all adults.

“The same single dose of tafenoquine is recommended for all adults and this has important practical advantages. However, because of variation in body weight, that dose results in substantial variation in drug exposure,” explained the paper’s lead author Dr James Watson. “Overall, it seems that the currently recommended adult dose of tafenoquine is not as good as optimal primaquine treatment in preventing relapsing P. vivax malaria in all endemic regions.”

To understand more about tafenoquine’s mechanism of action and optimal dosing, the team conducted an individual patient data meta-analysis from patients recruited to the three clinical trials that led to the drug’s approval, and healthy volunteers involved in an earlier pharmacokinetics study. They used statistical models to characterise the relationship between the weight-adjusted dose of tafenoquine or primaquine treatment and the likelihood of recurrent malaria infection.

Find out more about James’ work in vivax malaria in our recent webinar.