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Royal Society and Wellcome Trust partnership to nurture future world leaders in biomedicine

25 October 2011

Two of the world’s most influential scientific organisations today launched a joint scheme to identify and support future world leaders in biomedical research. Funded in partnership by the Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust, Sir Henry Dale Fellowships will provide the brightest biomedical scientists with the best possible start to their research careers in the UK.

Recipients of Sir Henry Dale Fellowships will be tackling issues crucial to our understanding of the molecules and cells vital to life and our fight against some of our major diseases including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. The scheme will provide generous resources to enable these researchers to establish their independence and become internationally competitive.

The combination of the Royal Society, which recently celebrated its 350th year, and the Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s largest funders of biomedical research, will help to make the fellowships the most prestigious and attractive awards of their kind. These fellowships will attract to the UK outstanding researchers from around the world, and will reinforce the UK’s reputation as a premier location for biomedical research.

The partnership is named after Sir Henry Dale (1875-1968), one of the most eminent biomedical scientists of the twentieth century. Dale was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of acetylcholine and its physiological actions in 1936, together with Otto Loewi from Austria. This discovery revolutionised the study and understanding of the nervous system and the way in which drugs were designed and developed. Dale was Chairman of the Wellcome Trust from 1938 until 1960 and served as President of the Royal Society from 1940 to 1945.

Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, says:

"Many of the world's most distinguished scientists can trace their success back to a formative research fellowship earlier in their career - the right support at the right time provides both resources and opportunities for talented researchers to become leaders in their field. Drawing on the expertise and experience of the Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust, Sir Henry Dale Fellowships will offer the best possible support for exceptionally promising researchers in the UK and attract outstanding international scientists to come and establish themselves in the UK."

Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, says:

“As a former President of the Royal Society and Chairman of the Wellcome Trust, Sir Henry Dale is an ideal figurehead for our partnership. He was an example of British science at its best: scientifically curious, pioneering and hard-working. We know that he would have been proud to support outstanding, talented individuals at the start of their independent careers as they pursue world-leading research here in the UK.”

The Sir Henry Dale Fellowships will bring together the Royal Society’s University Research Fellowships awarded to biomedical researchers and the Wellcome Trust’s Research Career Development Fellowships in one new scheme which will provide research support for up to eight years.

The partnership has been welcomed by David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, who says:

“These extremely prestigious fellowships will give a vital boost to our most talented researchers, putting them well on the way to a highly successful career. This will help keep the UK at the very forefront of biomedical research, tackling some of the most important diseases affecting the world today.”

The first awards will be made in June 2012.