Professor John Fox

The Directors of OpenClinical and representatives of Oxford University Innovation have placed here an appreciation of the life of our founder John Fox who sadly died on 31st August.  John wished his life’s work to continue and provisions he made are being implemented.  Please click below for an obituary from the OpenClinical directors.  We will link to further tributes as we become aware of them.

John’s career was a single-minded pursuit of an elusive goal: helping doctors to make sound decisions when faced with both uncertainty and information overload.  With PROforma he provided an approach which could help to achieve that goal. He was determined that his research should be clinically based, and that the resulting clinical apps, though using advanced knowledge engineering techniques, should be usable by the public and carers alike.  He also believed that research results should be published and available to all. is the latest in a series of projects and start-up companies, all utilizing John’s key innovation – PROforma.

Early research leading to PROforma

​At Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), now Cancer Research UK (CRUK) John established the Advanced Computation Laboratory to research clinical decision support. He and his team developed the PROPS expert system tool, licensing it to start-up company Expertech, chaired by former British Computer Society President Alex d’Agapeyef. Renamed XI Plus, it became a leading UK, PC-based, expert system shell, sales of which provided useful royalties for Cancer Research. Read more

The invention of PROforma

In a series of projects beginning with RED (early 1990s) and continued in several EU Framework IV research projects, John extended these ideas to embrace the context in which medical decisions take place. Doctors ideally follow best practice guidelines, which lay out a plan of fact-finding, decision taking, and actions. PROforma allows the representation of guidelines in a computer interpretable format. Clinical apps using these prompt every doctor to follow recognized best practice for each case    Read more.

Commercial Exploitation

Prior to CCI, PROforma led to the creation of two UK start-up companies, both of which continue to this day – InferMed Ltd (now part of Elsevier) and Deontics. Read more about InferMed.   Read more about Deontics.

Open Clinical History website contains a new implementation of PROforma. It both supports authoring and execution of clinical guidelines, and provides a library of demonstration guidelines. It serves to  showcase and teach PROforma technology, and provides a platform for clinical and care researchers and practitioners to develop, use, critique. and if appropriate share, executable guidelines as publets. Read more 

For the musicologist

John Fox loved music.  He drew parallels between: musical notation, a language for describing and publishing music and enabling its correct performance, and PROforma, a language for describing and publishing clinical best practice and supporting its correct performance. Hence some of the names chosen for PROforma implementations, Arezzo, Tallis, etc.  Read more