2022 Crick translation prize goes to Emma Wall

Group of four people standing together in the Crick atrium

Left to right: Veronique Birault, Anaid Benitez, Paul Nurse, Emma Wall

Emma Wall, Senior Clinical Research Fellow at the Crick and UCLH, has won the 2022 Sir David Cooksey Prize in Translation for her work on the Legacy study, which produced invaluable data about the biology of SARS-CoV-2 and the effectiveness of different COVID-19 vaccines. She was also announced as the 2022 Crick Translation Fellow

Legacy is a unique resource set up by a large team at the Crick at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a strategic collaboration between the Crick and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) UCLH Biomedical Research Centre. It was set up to get the most out of the newly-established testing pipeline at the Crick, as well as collecting and analysing blood samples from willing participants.

The entire Legacy team was recognised in 2020 with the translation prize for their exceptional contribution to establishing a diagnostic testing pipeline. The pipeline supported thousands of frontline healthcare staff and patients in hospitals and care homes, and saved lives by helping to prevent infection.

Emma has led the Legacy study since January 2021, recruiting nearly 800 vaccinated adults and generating over 2,500 biological samples and 7,000 positive SARS-CoV-2 swabs. She effectively translated clinical findings into clinical practice and policy, turning the Legacy study into real-time information to navigate the pandemic. Her ability to lead and communicate with researchers, clinicians and government has been invaluable.

Legacy is currently being used to investigate the biology of SARS-CoV-2, clinical symptoms brought about from infection, and to help explain why people have different antibody responses to COVID-19 vaccines. The study has interfaced with multiple Crick laboratories, across virology, cancer and immunology.

Data from Legacy and the associated clinical patient-facing studies have been cited over 500 times, and have had significant impact on pandemic policy in the UK. The study has established direct data sharing relationships with the Chief Medical Officer, the government advisory group NERVTAG, and the NHS COVID-19 therapeutics advisory group.

The award was presented by our director Paul Nurse, who said “Emma’s work in leading the Legacy study, and maintaining strong links with clinical collaborators at UCLH, has meant that this unique bioresource will continue to inform Crick science and clinical policy on COVID.”

Prize winners receive £10,000 for their lab and £2,000 for personal use. The Translation Prize is an opportunity to celebrate successes, recognise individuals and teams and, over time, to create a community and a culture to share excellence in translation. The award also aims to increase awareness of scientific translation at the Crick and promote role models who can inspire other scientists through their innovative work and global perspective.

This year’s runner up was Anaid Benitez, for her part in setting up and developing the Crick Science Entrepreneur Network (CSEN) alongside her own translation work. Anaid is setting up a test that can identify whether a person has something called Homologous Recombination Deficiency (HRD), which means they will respond better to specific cancer therapies.

Anaid is Co-Chair and founding member of the CSEN, which is a student-led organization created in 2021 to help scientists with their entrepreneurial endeavours. In their short year in action, the CSEN team has led over 15 educational events at the Crick, collaborated with the Crick’s translation team to deliver the Crick Innovation Challenge, and were shortlisted for one of the Crick’s Annual Awards.

Anaid was awarded an Early Career Translation Fellowship, along with Marija Maric and Kasper Fugger.

Marija Maric was nominated for her work on genetic vulnerabilities and her collaborative work with industry to stratify of patients for treatment with Human exonuclease 1 (EXO1) inhibitors in cancer.

Kasper Fugger was nominated for his work on hypersensitization of BRCA-deficient cancers to PARPi therapy with the aim to address resistance and improve treatment course.

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