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Celebrating life-changing COVID-19 research

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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.

£200,000 of flexible funding will be awarded to the winners, helping them to advance their COVID-19 research and their research careers.

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.

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. We’re looking for mid-career researchers whose work has already made a significant impact in the understanding of – and the fight against – COVID-19. Professor Danny Altmann, Trustee and Chair of the Emerging Leaders Prize panel

The emergence of COVID-19 quickly became a global health crisis, with scientists across the world contributing to our understanding of the disease. This includes research into SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19), the body’s immune response to the infection, and other symptoms associated with the disease, which can include fatigue, heart problems, headaches and strokes.

This year’s Emerging Leaders Prize applicants may have conducted COVID-19 research related to (but not limited to) the following scientific areas: virology, viral phylogenetics, epidemiology, immunology, viral 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.

To be eligible for a prize, the applicant’s contributions to the pandemic must be research-based and not service-based, for instance setting up diagnostic laboratories or vaccine infrastructure.

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.

In previous years, our Emerging Leaders Prize has recognised researchers working in the fields of pain, antimicrobial resistance, adolescent mental health and lupus research.

For more information, or to apply for the 2021 Emerging Leaders Prize, please visit our funding page.

If you have any questions about the prize competition, application process, or eligibility, get in touch with our Research team on or 020 7250 8216.

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