MRC awards inaugural Impact Prizes

Three event programmes showing the front cover for the MRC Prizes 2023 Awards Ceremony

Pioneering scientists awarded the first MRC Impact Prizes at a ceremony to celebrate impacts and achievements and the 2022 MRC Millennium Medal recipients.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) Impact Prize recognises individuals or teams who have made outstanding impacts in medical research in the following three areas:

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

At an award ceremony held on 14 March 2023, the open science impact prize went to the COMET (Core Outcome Measures for Effectiveness Trials) team from the University of Liverpool. It was awarded for research into improving how patient outcomes are selected and measured in clinical trials.

The University of Oxford RECOVERY Trial team won the outstanding team impact prize for the world’s largest study of COVID-19 therapies that saved a million lives worldwide.

And Dr Amy Orben and Dr Segun Fatumo were joint winners of the early career impact prize for their work respectively in championing early-career researchers and in genetic risk prediction of complex diseases in Africa.

Each winner received £20,000 to widen the outreach or impact of their work or to advance their learning or development.

At the award ceremony, MRC also announced the highly commended entries in each category.

Recognising outstanding advances

Professor John Iredale, MRC Interim Executive Chair said:

 With these new impact prizes, we aim to reward and recognise individuals and teams who make outstanding advances and impacts to global medical research and to improve the wider research environment and culture.

We received an outstanding uptake and enthusiasm from the community for the first year of these prizes, and I was hugely enthused to see the vast range of impacts that our outstanding research community makes.

COMET Database makes clinical trials more effective

COMET won the open science impact prize for providing a public and searchable database of outcomes in clinical trials that allows researchers and others to easily find which outcomes are recommended as measures.

Research has shown that outcomes measured in clinical trials are not always the most important to those taking decisions about healthcare. Differences in what and how outcomes are measured in studies of the same health condition can also make it hard to compare results.

The COMET database allows researchers, medical professionals and patients to easily see which outcomes are recommended as measures. It has been accessed more than 68,000 times since early 2020.

COVID-19 RECOVERY Trial teamwork saved a million lives

The University of Oxford’s RECOVERY Trial launched a trial of COVID-19 therapies in UK hospitals at the start of the pandemic and only nine days after the idea was first conceived.

It involved more than 48,000 participants and thousands of doctors, pharmacists and research administrators. It discovered that dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to a third.

The trial brought together a multidisciplinary and cross-organisation team that included:

  • experts in clinical trial design
  • infectious diseases
  • statistics
  • data analysis
  • software development
  • communications and public engagement

The discovery of the effectiveness of dextamethasone on its own is thought to have saved a million lives worldwide. RECOVERY has also identified three more effective COVID-19 treatments and proved six others to be ineffective.

Advancing open science and championing early-career researchers

Dr Orben’s MRC-funded research on digital technologies and mental health has informed recommendations given by the UK Chief Medical Officers, the US Surgeon General and UK parliamentary committees.

During her early career phase she has also led many innovative contributions to open science, reproducibility and research cultures and championed early-career researchers.

She co-founded the early-career research organisation ReproducibiliTea journal club and helped it to establish groups at more than 100 universities worldwide.

Dr Orben also leads a 16-hour graduate course to support those starting their careers to reflect on scientific values and culture. In addition, she  was integral in the launch of a recent University of Cambridge ‘Rights Retention’ trial which allows the university to share research outputs on open access repositories without barriers.

Improving health in Africa through genomics

Dr Fatumo was joint winner of the early career award for his pioneering genetic risk prediction of complex diseases in Africa and his outstanding contribution to advance representation of Africans in genomics.

Africa risks missing out on the huge potential of genomics to improve health. Dr Fatumo has established The African Computational Genomics (TACG) research group at the MRC/Uganda Virus Research Institute and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Uganda Research Unit.

The project has already carried out pioneering work including in quantifying risk of diabetes, kidney disease and lipid abnormalities, revealing significant differences from European populations.

He also leads regional genetics networks such as KidneyGenAfrica, an emerging network, assessing impact of genetic variations on kidney disease by aggregating genetic data across Africa regions.

MRC Millennium Medal

During the ceremony winners of the 2022 MRC Millennium Medal were presented with their medal, which was specially created by the Royal Mint, and is MRC’s most prestigious personal prize.

The medals were awarded to neuroscientist and neurologist Professor Sarah Tabrizi and biotechnologist Professor Lisa Hall.

Find out more about the Millennium Medal winners.

Watch out for opening of 2023 awards

The MRC Impact Prize 2023 and MRC Millennium Medal 2023 opens for nominations on 24 April 2023 and closes on 30 June 2023 at 5:00pm. Further details will be announced on the MRC awards and recognition page.

Further information

Highly commended entries

Open Science Impact Prize

Commended entries:

  • 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)
  • enabling rapid communication, dissemination and uptake of COVID-19 mathematical modelling, MRC Centre for Global Disease Analysis (GIDA) at Imperial College London. This project 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 Prize

Commended entries:

  • the impact of poor menstrual health and hygiene on adolescent schoolgirls and interventions to improve girls’ health and equity, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. This project 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. This 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 Prize

Commended entries:

  • 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

For questions about the MRC Impact Prize contact:

For questions about the MRC Millennium Medal contact:

Top image:  Credit: Joel Knight

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