Emerging Leaders Prize


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​The Medical Research Foundation’s 2021 Emerging Leaders Prize will celebrate outstanding scientists whose research has made a significant impact in the fight against COVID-19.

2020 was an extraordinary year for medical research. We’ve seen scientists from a very wide range of different fields pivot their research to help us understand COVID-19, its effects on the body, and how it can be diagnosed and treated. In 2021 we really want to try and turbo-charge some of the scientific discoveries that have been made so far.
Professor Danny Altmann
Trustee and Chair of the Emerging Leaders Prize panel


What is the Emerging Leaders Prize?

Each year our Emerging Leaders Prize celebrates the achievements of researchers working on a different research theme. The prize funding provides a springboard for the winners’ careers and ensures they can continue to tackle key health challenges – both now and long into the future. In previous years, the prize has recognised researchers working in the fields of pain, antimicrobial resistance, adolescent mental health and lupus.

The funding is flexible, meaning that the winners decide how best to use it. This could mean spending time in a lab overseas, buying a cutting-edge piece of technology for their research, or investing in their personal career development.

Who can apply?

The Medical Research Foundation is inviting applications from researchers who have re-focused their research to COVID-19 to apply for the 2021 Emerging Leaders Prize. This prize is intended to celebrate the achievements of outstanding researchers who are making an impact in COVID-19 research, and who have demonstrated their potential to be a research leader in the future. We expect that these applicants will come from a wide range of scientific fields, and since January 2020 will have re-directed their research towards the pandemic. The prize will support their career development and enable them to take their research further, in either COVID-19 or their own field.

This competition is open to UK researchers at eligible institutions (UK HEIs, Research Council research institutes, hospitals, and other independent research organisations). Applicants must be in the process of, or have recently, transitioned to an independent research position. They should demonstrate productivity throughout their career, as well as being able to demonstrate a track record of nationally competitive research, an ability to manage their own independent research group currently or in the near future, and clear plans to develop into an internationally recognised leader in their field.

Which fields of research will the prize cover?

We are interested in receiving applications from emerging research leaders, working directly in research relevant to COVID-19. Applicants may have conducted COVID-19 research related to (but not limited to) the following scientific areas: virology, viral phylogenetics, epidemiology, immunology, transmission, neuroscience, clinical symptoms and management, cardiology, stroke, vaccine development, therapeutic development, long-term effects of COVID-19 including Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome temporally associated with COVID-19 (PIMS-TS) and “Long-COVID”, and child, adolescent or adult mental health.

Applicants will be required to demonstrate their track record in their original field and their impact on COVID-19 or related areas. More information on the review process and impact can be found in the Guidelines for Applicants (see below).

How much funding is available?

Up to £200,000 is available to recognise the work of emerging research leaders who are making significant contributions to research in COVID-19. A top prize of £100,000 will be awarded and smaller prizes of various amounts for second place and highly commended candidates.


  • Deadline for Submission: 12:00 Wednesday 21 April 2021
  • Shortlisting notification: July 2021
  • Interview: Tuesday 7 September 2021
  • Funding Decision: September 2021
  • Feedback on funding decision: September 2021
  • Prize Giving Event: To be confirmed




Expert Panel

Applications will be reviewed by an expert panel, made up of core panel members with experience in assessing career development and fellowship awards, and specialist members with experience in research areas relevant to COVID-19. The Panel is chaired by one of our trustees, Professor Danny Altmann from Imperial College London.


Any queries on the prize, competition, application process, or eligibility should be addressed to or 020 7250 8216.

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