Celebrating 100 years of life-changing medical research
Research stars of the future
Through our Emerging Leaders Prize, we've funded research into lupus, adolescent mental health, antimicrobial resistance and pain.
Since our first Emerging Leaders Prize in 2017, we’ve awarded £800,000 to 17 outstanding scientists working in the fields of lupus, adolescent mental health, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and pain research.
The prize fund is flexible, allowing the winners to decide how best to use it. That could mean spending time in a lab overseas, buying cutting-edge technology to support their research, or investing in their personal career development.
Through the Prize, we’ve looked for scientists on a trajectory to do something unique and special in their field, and that’s undoubtedly the case with our winners. Each year I’m blown away by the pool of talent we’ve been able to unearth.Professor Danny Altmann
Trustee and Chair of the Emerging Leaders Prize panel
Our Trustee and Chair of the Emerging Leaders Prize panel, Professor Danny Altmann, explains: “Through the Prize, we’ve looked for scientists on a trajectory to do something unique and special in their field, and that’s undoubtedly the case with our winners. Each year I’m blown away by the pool of talent we’ve been able to unearth.
“We know this prize has already been a real game-changer for many of our winners, providing a vital springboard for the next stage of their careers.”
Between them, our prize-winners have secured additional funding totalling nearly £2.5 million and published more than 40 research papers in leading medical journals. This reflects both their advancement of understanding and knowledge surrounding key health challenges, and potential to become research leaders of the future.
Lupus - 2017
Sometimes our donors specify areas of research important to them, and that was the case for Dr Erina Herrick, who left a gift in her Will to support emerging research leaders in the field of lupus. Our first ever Emerging Leaders Prize in 2017 was a tribute to Dr Herrick, a scientist who lived with lupus for most of her adult life.
Lupus is a long-term autoimmune disease that affects around 15,000 people in England and Wales. It is very difficult to diagnose and is currently incurable, although the disease can be managed if detected early.
Our 2017 prize-winners are tackling vital research questions around the genetic drivers of lupus and the molecular basis of brain disease in lupus.
Our first ever Emerging Leaders Prize-winner, Dr David Hunt from the University of Edinburgh, scooped our top prize in 2017. David recently received £1.5 million from the Wellcome Trust for a Senior Clinical Fellowship, and he attributes this success in part to the Emerging Leaders Prize.
“The Emerging Leaders Prize has been transformative for my lab’s research into lupus brain disease. The research funds have enabled me to purchase state-of-the-art equipment and develop bold new collaborations. Winning this award has also increased my group’s visibility and allowed me to connect more closely with the lupus community.”
Brain disease is a serious and common problem in lupus, yet its molecular basis is largely unknown. Thanks to our Emerging Leaders Prize, David is decoding the molecular basis of lupus to develop better personalised treatments.
His laboratory is exploring how to combine results of an extremely sensitive blood test with images from brain scans, to follow how lupus-related brain disease develops. This information could be used to design clinical trials aimed at preventing brain damage.
David adds: “My very first job in medicine involved looking after people with lupus, and this contact has inspired my research and clinical practice.
“Our ability to develop treatments to prevent or treat brain disease in lupus is hampered by two problems. Firstly, we understand very little of the molecular pathways which drive brain disease. Secondly, we don’t have good ways of measuring brain dysfunction in clinical trials. My group addresses both of these roadblocks, trying to decode the molecular pathways and develop practical biomarkers of brain disease.”
1st place, £100,000 prize: Dr David Hunt, University of Edinburgh
2nd place, £80,000 prize: Dr Tracy Briggs, University of Manchester
3rd place, £20,000 prize: Dr Edward Vital, University of Leeds
Left to right: Dr Tracy Briggs, Dr David Hunt and Dr Edward Vital.
Adolescent mental health - 2018
Our 2018 prize-winners are probing various aspects of adolescent mental health, including the genetic factors that put young people most at risk of developing mental health problems, and brain imaging techniques which could establish whether changes in neural pathways are connected with mental ill health.
1st place, £100,000 prize: Dr Jean-Baptiste Pingault, University College London.
2nd place, £80,000 prize: Dr Tobias Hauser, University College London
Runners-up, each awarded £5,000: Dr Catherine Sebastian, Royal Holloway University of London; Dr Valeria Mondelli, King's College London; Dr Helen Fisher, King's College London, Dr Anne-Laura van Harmelen, University of Cambridge.
Our 2018 winners with Foundation Trustees Professor Nick Lemoine (left) and Professor Danny Altmann (right).
Antimicrobial resistance - 2019
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and specifically antibiotic resistance, poses a global threat to human life, requiring urgent action to halt drug resistance and to accelerate new treatments for bacterial infection. Already, drug-resistant infections are estimated to cause 700,000 deaths each year globally, and that figure is predicted to rise to 10 million by 2050.
In 2019 we recognised outstanding scientists working on a range of research problems related to AMR, including finding the best gene combination to determine whether someone has a bacterial infection, rather than a viral infection, in turn guiding whether they genuinely need antibiotic treatment.
1st place, £100,000 prize: Dr Myrsini Kaforou, Imperial College London
2nd place, £90,000 prize: Dr Tihana Bicanic, St George’s University of London
Runners-up, £5,000 prize: Dr David Eyre, University of Oxford; Dr Alison Mather, Quadram Institute Bioscience
Left to right: Dr David Eyre; Dr Myrsini Kaforou; Dr Tihana Bicanic; Dr Alison Mather.
Pain – 2020
Pain affects around 28 million people in the UK. It is not simply a symptom of disease but has a biology that is important to understand due to its wide-ranging effects on people’s quality of life. Chronic pain also carries a large societal and economic burden by putting extra strain on healthcare systems, as well as contributing to unemployment and work absence due to sickness. Chronic pain costs the UK economy billions of pounds every year.
Despite these personal, societal and economic burdens, there is still a significant gap in our understanding of pain. Our 2020 Emerging Leaders Prize funded four exceptional scientists, who are grappling with issues such as alleviating pain in babies and preventing pain after whiplash injury in adults.
1st place, £100,000 prize: Dr Lorenzo Fabrizi, University College London
2nd place, £80,000 prize: Dr Annina Schmid, University of Oxford
Highly commended, £10,000 prize: Dr Philip Holland, King’s College London; Dr Franziska Denk, King’s College London
1st place prize winner Dr Lorenzo Fabrizi, University College London (UCL).