Cristina Lo Celso, a stem cell biologist at Imperial College London with a satellite group at the Crick, has been announced as the winner of the Foulkes Foundation Medal 2017.
The Foulkes Medal is awarded biennially to a rising star within biomedical research for contributing important and significant impacts to the field before, or in, their first independent position.
Cristina uses stem cells to study how leukaemia develops and relapses. Leukaemia affects adults and children and has one of the highest cancer mortality rates, partially due to its high rate of recurrence. Cristina's research hopes to provide better treatments for sufferers of this devastating disease, with her developments set to be translated for clinical use.
On receiving the award, she said: "Receiving this prestigious medal is a real honour. For my research to be recognised by the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Foulkes Foundation is incredibly inspiring, and will only increase my determination to work towards improving therapies and learn how to prevent disease."
Cristina's career has stretched across several disciplines and countries, taking her from Italy to England via the USA. By working internationally and setting up an interdisciplinary laboratory, she has set out a clear example of integrative and shared global science, both of which are key passions of hers.
Her earliest scientific breakthrough was made during her time in the USA, at Harvard University, where she developed pioneering microscopy techniques, allowing scientists to view living blood stem cells inside their natural environment for the first time, a huge step for global blood cell research.
More recently she has made great advances in looking at the way in which leukaemia cells move around the body, and why the bodies' bone-making cells disappear during the development of the disease. The aim of this research is to optimise bone marrow transplantation and treatments for the most common type of adult leukaemia.
Cristina will receive the medal, along with a cash prize, at the Academy of Medical Sciences' AGM on 5 December. She will also deliver a lecture on her research and life as a leading biomedical scientist to the Academy's prestigious Fellowship.
Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: "The Foulkes Foundation Medal is awarded to celebrate the significant work of young, innovative biomedical researchers. This year's winner, Dr Lo Celso, represents what science needs the most right now: global, cross-discipline and ground-breaking research. She is a beacon of innovation and will drive forward the way specialists prevent and treat leukaemia. I look forward to seeing her career continue to make great waves in her field, reducing the suffering of those with leukaemia."
About her research, Cristina said: "My fascination with stem cell biology is fuelled by the promise of improving human health, the goal being to unlock the secrets of stem cell function and potential. To have taken my work to a few short steps away from clinical use is incredibly rewarding, both personally and professionally. Knowing that life changing impacts for currently suffering patients are within sight is the biggest push for me. I am determined to continue developing techniques that will reduce the relapse rate of leukaemia, with the ultimate goal to eliminate this aggressive disease forever."
The Foulkes Foundation was established in 1972 by Dr Ernest Foulkes CBE HonMD HonFRCP, with the aim of promoting medical research, the training of scientists and the study of medicine. The Foulkes Foundation Medal has been awarded biennially since 2007.