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Professor Sir Brian Greenwood awarded the 2015 MRC Millennium Medal

10 Dec 2015

The MRC recognised the achievements of Professor Sir Brian Greenwood at its prestigious MRC Millennium Medal Award Ceremony at Somerset House, London on 9 December. MRC Chief Executive, Professor Sir John Savill, hosted the event and MRC Chairman, Donald Brydon, presented the medal to Sir Brian. The event was attended by leading figures from the field of medical research, friends and family of Sir Brian and MRC Council and Strategy Board members.

On presenting Sir Brian’s medal, Donald Brydon said: “You can tell true leaders by the footprint they leave behind them and the affection, the love, the admiration for Sir Brian that I found when I visited The Gambia was really quite extraordinary and quite inspirational. What you’ve done is truly remarkable and I am absolutely delighted to present you with this medal."

Professor Sir Brian Greenwood, Manson Professor of Clinical Tropical Medicine at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, has spent 50 years carrying out research in Africa. Through his simple but high-quality methods for clinical studies and field trials of drugs and vaccines he reinvented field research in tropical medicine. His work led the way in seeking holistic solutions based on cutting-edge science as well as a genuine understanding of the complex challenges unique to Africa. For 15 years Brian directed the UK MRC Laboratories in The Gambia (now known as MRC Unit The Gambia). There he established a multidisciplinary research programme focused on some of the most important infectious diseases prevalent in the region, including malaria, pneumonia, measles, meningitis, hepatitis and HIV2. 

Sir Brian commented: “I am very grateful to the Medical Research Council for awarding me the Millennium Medal which is, of course, recognition not only of my own research but also that of the many scientists with whom I have had the privilege of working during the past 50 years. There have been many changes in the way that research has been conducted in Africa during this period, the most important of which has been the increasing prominence of African scientists, and I am delighted that I have had the opportunity to contribute to this important change.”

Sir John Savill commented: “The MRC is delighted to award this year’s Millennium Medal to Sir Brian. For over a century the MRC has been at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. It is with great pleasure that I, along with the MRC’s Council, can recognise the significant contribution of those who have helped transform healthcare and influenced national and international public health policies.”

The MRC Millennium Medal, which was inaugurated in 2000, recognises MRC-funded scientists for outstanding research. Previous winners have included Dr Cesar Milstein, for his pioneering work on monoclonal antibodies; Professor Tom Meade, for his contribution to UK health, particularly in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease; Professor Sir Peter Mansfield, who played an instrumental role in the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); Professor Sir Edwin Southern for his outstanding impact on genetic analysis and his invention of both the Southern blotting technique and DNA microarray technology; Professor Sir Philip Cohen for his discovery of the important role of phosphorylation in regulating all aspects of cell life; and Professor Sir Gregory Winter for developing techniques to ‘humanise’ rodent antibodies, making them suitable for treating disease.

For over a century, the Medical Research Council has been at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health.

Further information about Professor Sir Brian Greenwood:

Sir Brian`s leadership and foresight transformed what was once an ancillary colonial or military activity focused on hygiene, into a multidisciplinary endeavour; he brought together laboratory and clinical research, preventive and curative medicine, epidemiology, anthropology, behavioural research and economics.

His research has influenced national and international public health policies dealing with some of the major killers of children in Africa. His work demonstrated the effectiveness of insecticide-treated nets, now the cornerstone of malaria control throughout Africa, and the potential to eliminate Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib) infection through vaccination.

He studied artemisinin-based combination therapies, now widely adopted as a first-line treatment for malaria, and set-up large-scale clinical trials of vaccines against the pneumococcus, a common cause of pneumonia and meningitis in children. He also made significant contributions to malaria vaccine trials and the development of meningococcal vaccines.

Brian has long championed medical education and development in Africa, mentoring new generations of African students, doctors and clinicians to become leaders in their fields, helping enhance the stature of African medical research among the international scientific community.

In 2008, Brian became director of the Malaria Capacity Development Consortium, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports a postgraduate malaria training programme in five universities in sub- Saharan Africa. The same year, he was awarded the prestigious Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize by the Prime Minister of Japan. He was knighted in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to malaria research in Africa, and awarded the Canada Gairdner Global Health Award.

In recent years, Brian has contributed to several landmark studies including the trials of the GlaxoSmithKline RTS,S malaria vaccine, pneumococcal vaccines in The Gambia, the evaluation of a new meningococcal vaccine in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the development of seasonal malaria chemoprevention, a method for preventing malaria in children which is now being widely deployed in countries of the Sahel and sub-Sahel where malaria transmission is restricted to a few months of the year, research that started during his time in The Gambia. Among his other projects, he is currently involved in Ebola vaccine trials in Sierra Leone.

More on Sir Brian's life, in his own words can be read from when he was profiled by the Insight blog


  • Categories: Corporate
  • Health categories: Generic
  • Strategic objectives: Securing impact from medical research, International partnerships and shaping the agenda, Global health, Aim: Research to people
  • Locations: London, The Gambia
  • Type: News article