MRC announces Millennium Medal winners and Impact Prize finalists

Abstract gold swirl

The MRC Prize Committee name 2 winners of the 2022 MRC Millennium Medal and shortlist 9 teams and individuals for the inaugural MRC Impact Prize.

British-Iranian neuroscientist and neurologist Professor Sarah Tabrizi and biotechnologist Professor Lisa Hall will both receive the MRC Millennium Medal at an award ceremony in 2023.

The medal, specially created by the Royal Mint, is MRC’s most prestigious personal prize. It is usually presented each year to an outstanding researcher who has made a major contribution to MRC’s mission to improve human health through world-class medical research.

The ceremony in the spring will also see the announcement of the winners of the inaugural MRC Impact Prize. The MRC Prize Committee have today announced a shortlist of 9 outstanding teams and individuals across the 3 prize categories.

Contributing to health and wealth

Portrait photo of Lisa Hall. She has shoulder length brown hair with a fringe. She's wearing a pearl necklace and pink top.

Lisa Hall. Credit: Nick Saffell

Professor Hall, Professor of Analytical Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge, is recognised for her pioneering multidisciplinary work and key translational impacts in biotechnology and biosensor design.

Her research on glucose biosensors led to spinout company AgaMatrix, which has delivered more than 8 million devices that are helping health services to provide diabetes care.

Professor Hall has also used synthetic biology techniques to develop new diagnostics and environmentally sustainable local manufacturing techniques that will benefit the NHS and provide beneficial solutions for low and middle-income countries.

The MRC Prize Committee also praised Professor Hall for her dedication to improving the wider research culture and environment, particularly by embedding entrepreneurship into her work, advancing the education of young researchers and ‘being a champion for women in science’.

Catalysing innovation and entrepreneurship

Professor Lisa Hall said:

It’s a great honour and an enormous privilege to have been awarded the MRC Millennium Medal. MRC and UKRI’s investment in our research has catalysed innovation and entrepreneurship from an incredible group of students and early career researchers in Cambridge and my collaborators in low and middle income countries.

The medal acknowledges that advancing in vitro diagnostics requires education and creativity, a global challenge to inspire us all.

This led me to revisit access and use of diagnostics in low and middle income countries and, through MRC and other sponsors, gave me the passion and determination to research new sustainable approaches and solutions. We aren’t there yet and I’m humbled by the award of the medal.

A fitting testament

Professor John Dennis, Head of the School of Technology, University of Cambridge, said:

 I am truly delighted that the MRC has awarded this prestigious medal to Lisa. It is a fitting testament to her dedication to research in the field over many years and to her major contributions more widely to her department, the university and to society.

Read more about Professor Lisa Hall’s work.

Research opens new treatments for Huntington’s disease

Sarah Tabrizi sat at microscope in lab

Sarah Tabrizi. Credit: David Bishop, UCL Creatives

Professor Tabrizi has been recognised for making outstanding achievements in medical research, these include her pioneering work to advance the understanding and translation of therapies for neurodegeneration.

Sarah is a true clinician-scientist with a bench-to-bedside research programme which spans understanding of cellular mechanisms of neurodegeneration to first-in-human clinical trials testing novel disease-modifying therapies.

Her pioneering ‘gene-silencing’ therapeutics have opened new avenues for the development of treatments for Huntington’s disease (HD) and other neurodegenerative conditions.

Professor Tabrizi has truly advanced our understanding of HD in patients at every level, an incurable genetic dementia that affects young people. Her research has laid the foundations for all current clinical trials in this disease. It has identified new drug targets in DNA repair which have opened up an entire new field of therapeutics for HD and other repeat expansion diseases.

The MRC Prize Committee also recognised Professor Tabrizi’s ‘dedication to promoting a positive, open and fair research culture and actively championing equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)’. Professor Tabrizi promoted EDI for decades at UCL, including being chosen as a UCL academic role model in 2013, and by being an active champion and mentor of women in science.

Professor Tabrizi is Director of the UCL Huntington’s Disease (HD) Centre, Professor of Clinical Neurology and joint head of Department of Neurodegenerative Disease at the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology , consultant neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at UCLH, and a Group Leader at the UK Dementia Research Institute.

Recognising partnership

Professor Sarah Tabrizi said:

I am incredibly honoured to receive the MRC Millennium Medal for 2022 as a joint winner; it is a recognition of all the patients and families with Huntington’s disease whom I have worked with over the last 25 years.

I am also grateful to all my PhD students, postdocs, clinical fellows, past and present, and colleagues in the UCL HD Centre: without their partnership I wouldn’t be where I am today, and to my colleagues at the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology and the UK Dementia Research Institute for their immense support over the years, my success is also dependent on all of them.

Truly inspiring

Professor Bart De Strooper, Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute, said:

I am thrilled that the MRC has awarded Professor Tabrizi the Millennium Medal. She is an outstanding scientist, producing world class research.

Her focus and drive to find a cure for Huntington’s disease, together with her enthusiasm and leadership, is truly inspiring. We are extremely fortunate to have her as part of the UK DRI, and this achievement is richly deserved.

Read more about Professor Sarah Tabrizi’s work.

Entrants make outstanding impact on health and research

The MRC Impact Prize recognises individuals or teams who have made outstanding impacts in medical research. The prize rewards impacts in the following 3 areas:

  • open science impact
  • outstanding team impact
  • early career impact

3 entrants who have made an outstanding impact to health and health research have been shortlisted as a finalist in each category, and the winners will be announced at the ceremony in the spring.

The winners will receive up to £20,000 to widen the outreach or impact of their work or to advance their learning and development.

Open science impact

The finalists are:

  • Making COVID-19 response data FAIR, University of Nottingham, which is ensuring that data collected as part of the COVID-19 response is findable, accessible, interoperable or reusable (FAIR)
  • COMET (Core Outcome Measures for Effectiveness Trials) Initiative, University of Liverpool, which has provided a public and searchable database of outcomes in clinical trials that allows researchers and others to easily find which outcomes are recommended as measures
  • Enabling rapid communication, dissemination and uptake of COVID-19 mathematical modelling, MRC Centre for Global Disease Analysis (GIDA) at Imperial College London, which supported the extensive use of mathematical modelling during the UK’s COVID-19 response by reporting outputs in the public interest in accessible places and in multiple languages

Outstanding team impact

The finalists are:

  • The RECOVERY Trial: the world’s largest study of COVID-19 therapies, University of Oxford, which launched a trial of COVID-19 therapies in UK hospitals at the very start of the pandemic, only 9 days after the idea was first conceived, and quickly discovered that dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to a third
  • The impact of poor menstrual health and hygiene on adolescent schoolgirls and interventions to improve girls’ health and equity, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, which conducted a study on the use of menstrual cups in Kenya that has since informed Kenyan health policy and been used globally including leading to the formation of the Menstrual Cup Coalition
  • Next generation imaging of human brain function, University of Nottingham, which has developed a new lightweight and wearable brain scanner being used for research into epilepsy and autism that has improved sensitivity and is cheaper to buy and maintain

Early career impact

The finalists are:

  • Dr Natalie Shenker, Research Fellow, Imperial College London, for reducing infant mortality and improving global public health with a human milk innovation programme and national milk bank service
  • Dr Segun Fatumo, Wellcome Intermediate Fellow, MRC/Uganda Virus Research Institute and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit, for pioneering genetic risk prediction of complex diseases in Africa and outstanding contribution to advance representation of Africans in genomics
  • Dr Amy Orben, Programme Leader Track Scientist, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, for multiple, innovative contributions to open science, reproducibility and research cultures in her early career phase, championing early-career researchers, and improving scientific quality and culture both nationally and internationally

Recognising outstanding science

Professor John Iredale, MRC Executive Chair said:

These MRC prizes pay tribute to some of the extraordinary impacts that science carried out by our research community in the UK and abroad have delivered for us all.

It is especially pleasing that MRC has been able to recognise the world class work of the 2 outstanding scientists receiving our MRC Millennium Medal. The impact of their work is not only via the world-class science they have undertaken but also in their championing of open and inclusive research environments that can only make UK science and research more successful.

The breadth of impact achieved by the finalists in our first MRC Impact Prize competition is also hugely impressive and humbling. We are proud to be recognising scientific teams and individuals making a global difference to advance medical research.

Further information

Open Science Impact Finalists

Making COVID-19 response data FAIR

Nominating institution: University of Nottingham

Team members:

  • Dr Philip Quinlan, Director of Health Informatics, University of Nottingham
  • Professor Emily Jefferson, Professor of Health Data Science, University of Dundee
  • Professor Aziz Sheikh, Director of the Usher Institute, The University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Susan Hopkins, Consultant in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, UK Health Security Agency

COMET Initiative: enabling open science to improve how patient outcomes are selected and measured in clinical trials

Nominating institution: University of Liverpool

Team members:

  • Professor Paula Ruth Williamson, Professor of Biostatistics, Chair of COMET Management Group University of Liverpool
  • Dr Sarah Gorst, COMET Senior Research Associate and Project Coordinator University of Liverpool
  • Professor Bridget Young, Professor of Psychology, Co-Chair of COMET PoPPIE Group, University of Liverpool
  • Mrs Heather Barrington COMET Public and Patient Coordinator, Member of COMET PoPPIE Group and COMET Management Group, University of Liverpool
  • Dr Nicola Harman, COMET Senior Research Associate, University of Liverpool
  • Mr Richard Crew, COMET Information Systems Developer, University of Liverpool
  • Dr Karen Hughes, COMET Research Associate, University of Liverpool
  • Dr Susanna Dodd, Senior Lecturer in Medical Statistics, University of Liverpool
  • Mr John Turner, Co-Chair of COMET PoPPIE Group, Public member
  • Professor Mike Clarke, Member of COMET Management Group, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Professor Jane Blazeby, Member of COMET Management Group, University of Bristol
  • Dr Sean Tunis, Member of COMET Management Group, Tufts University, US
  • Professor Doug Altman (deceased), Member of COMET Management Group, University of Oxford
  • Dr Liz Gargon Previous COMET Project Coordinator (to 2021), University of Liverpool, now MAPI Values
  • Professor Jamie Kirkham, Professor of Medical Statistics, University of Liverpool, now The University of Manchester

Enabling rapid communication, dissemination and uptake of COVID-19 mathematical modelling

Nominating institution: Imperial College London

Team members:

  • Dr Richard Fitzjohn, Principal Architect, Research Software Engineering Group, MRC GIDA, Imperial College London
  • Dr Wes Hinsley, Senior Computational Analyst, MRC GIDA, Imperial College London
  • Dr Natsuko Imai, WHO Liaison Manager, MRC GIDA, Imperial College London
  • Dr Sabine van Elsland, Relationships and Communications Manager, MRC GIDA, Imperial College London

Outstanding Team Impact Finalists

The RECOVERY Trial: the world’s largest study of COVID-19 therapies

Nominating institution: University of Oxford

Team members:

  • Sir Martin Landray, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, Oxford Population Health
  • Sir Peter Horby, Moh Family Foundation Professor of Emerging Infections and Global Health, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford
  • Richard Haynes, Professor of Renal Medicine and Clinical Trials, Oxford Population Health
  • Marion Mafham, Senior Clinical Fellow, Oxford Population Health
  • Andy King, Head of Trials Programming, National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, Oxford Population Health
  • Jonathan Emberson, Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology, Oxford Population Health
  • Andrea Cradduck-Bamford, Trial Manager, Oxford Population Health
  • Marian Knight, Professor of Maternal and Child Population Health, Oxford Population Health
  • Anne Whitehouse, Director of Communications and Public Engagement, Oxford Population Health
  • Emmanuelle Denis, Senior Operations Manager, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford

The RECOVERY trial has involved over 48,000 participants, and many thousands of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and research administrators at 200 hospitals. It has been supported by:

  • staff in the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Networks
  • NHS
  • governmental bodies
  • collaborators in the UK and internationally
  • the pharmaceutical companies that provided study treatments
  • our funders including the MRC

It would not have been possible without the dedication and support of all those involved.

The impact of poor menstrual health and hygiene on adolescent schoolgirls and interventions to improve girls’ health and equity

Nominating institution: Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM)

Team members:

  • Professor Penelope Phillips-Howard, Professor of Public Health Epidemiology, LSTM
  • Ms Elizabeth Nyothach, Study Coordinator and Research Officer, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Centre for Global Health Research (CGHR)
  • Ms Garazi Zulaika, Technical Officer (Epidemiologist and Logistician), LSTM
  • Dr Clayton Onyango, Deputy Laboratory Director, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-Kenya
  • Dr Linda Mason, Senior Research Associate, LSTM
  • Mr David Obor Okoth, Research Coordinator for Health and Demographic Surveillance System, KEMRI, CGHR
  • Dr Anna Maria van Eijk, Senior Research Officer, LSTM
  • Mr Clifford Oduor, Biostatistician, KEMRI, CGHR
  • Ms Kelly Alexander, Senior Learning and Influencing Advisor, CARE (formerly LSTM and Safe Water and AIDS Project (SWAP) during MRC study)
  • Mrs Jane Juma, Microbiologist Center for Vaccine Development (CVD)-MALI (formerly KEMRI, CGHR during MRC study/trial)
  • Mr Alex Mwaki, Country Director, SWAP
  • Ms Emily Omwenga Kerubo, Laboratory Technologist, KEMRI, CGHR
  • Dr Valerie Opollo, Laboratory Director, KEMRI, CGHR
  • Dr Daniel Kwaro, Clinical Epidemiologist, KEMRI, CGHR
  • Dr Eunice Fwaya, Chief Officer of Health, County Government of Siaya, Kenya
  • Ms Alie Eleveld, Founder and Technical Advisor, SWAP
  • Mr Kelvin Oruko, Lecturer (formerly KEMRI, CDC during MRC study)
  • Dr Kayla Laserson, Deputy Director Infectious Diseases Cluster, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (formerly CDC-Kenya during MRC study)
  • Ms Filister Ogwama, Study Nurse, KEMRI, CGHR
  • Professor Duolao Wang, Professor in Biostatistics, LSTM
  • Ms Clara Akello, Research assistant, KEMRI, CGHR
  • Professor Philip Spinhoven, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Leiden University
  • Professor Rhiannon Tudor Edwards, Professor in Health Economics, Bangor University
  • Dr Isaac Ngere, Medical Epidemiologist, Washington State University

Next generation imaging of human brain function

Nominating institution: University of Nottingham

Team members:

  • Professor Matthew Brookes, Professor of Physics, University of Nottingham
  • Professor Richard Bowtell, Professor of Physics, University of Nottingham
  • Dr Elena Boto, Chief Technology Officer, Cerca Magnetics Limited
  • Dr Niall Holmes, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Nottingham
  • Dr Vishal Shah, Chief Scientist, QuSpin Inc
  • Professor Mark Fromhold, Professor of Physics, University of Nottingham
  • Ms Shweta Choudhury, Chief Executive Officer, QuSpin Inc
  • Miss Molly Rea, PhD student, University of Nottingham
  • Miss Natalie Rhodes, PhD student, University of Nottingham
  • Mr Dominic Sims, Business engagement, University of Nottingham
  • Dr Ryan Hill, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Nottingham
  • Mr David Woolger, Chief Executive Officer, Cerca Magnetics Limited
  • Mr Eliot Dawson, Director of Operations, Cerca Magnetics Limited
  • Mr Christopher Mariani, Head of Engineering, Cerca Magnetics Limited
  • Mr Peter Hobson, PhD student, University of Nottingham

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