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The MRC Millennium Medal: 20 years on

by Guest Author on 24 Aug 2020

This is the 20th Anniversary of the launch of the MRC Millennium Medal, awarded to an outstanding Medical Research Council (MRC) researcher who has demonstrated scientific excellence and impact. Here, Professor Fiona Watt, MRC Executive Chair, reflects on the last 20 years of MRC funded research.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of MRC’s mission to advance medical research and improve human health. I am proud that, for over a century, the MRC has been at the forefront of funding medical research and innovation. Our exceptional scientists and support staff have worked tirelessly to transform healthcare and change the way that the research community collaborates and innovates.

To recognise and celebrate the successes of our MRC scientists, in 2000 we inaugurated the MRC Millennium Medal. Since then, we have presented the Medal to eight truly outstanding individuals who have pioneered fields ranging from the development of humanised monoclonal antibodies (Professor César Milstein: 2000 winner) and MRI imaging (Sir Peter Mansfield: 2004 winner), through to tropical medicine (Sir Professor Brian Greenwood: 2015 winner) and clinical trials for diseases such as HIV, AIDS and cancer (Professor Janet Darbyshire: 2017 winner). When I reflect on these past Medal winners, I feel inspired by their achievements.

Professor Fiona Watt

Professor Fiona Watt

The world has changed considerably in 20 years. It has become clear that traditional metrics alone do not always tell the whole story of what, and how, individuals contribute to medical research. To mark the 20th Anniversary of the MRC Millennium Medal, we are reflecting these changes. We are making the award an annual open competition and are inviting nominations from research institutes to recognise the diverse ways that MRC funded researchers make an impact. We also intend to reflect the diversity of our research community and encourage nominations from individuals who are often under-represented in the research and innovation community. The Medal will be presented to an exceptional individual who has contributed significantly to their research field and who has shown a dedication to improving the research environment, for example by improving research culture, championing research integrity or by fostering collaborations and training the next generation of scientists.

It is with great pleasure that I, along with the MRC Strategy Board and MRC Council, can recognise those that have contributed significantly to the transformation of science and the research environment via the 2020 MRC Millennium Medal.

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