The Sir Michael Berridge Prize
The Sir Michael Berridge Prize is awarded annually to a PhD student or postdoctoral researcher for their contribution to an outstanding piece of published science. The award was endowed by Sir Michael who was a group leader at the Institute from 1990 until 2004, after which he was appointed the Institute’s first Emeritus Babraham Fellow, a position he held until his death in February 2020.
Dr Maria Rostovskaya, Senior Research Scientist in the Epigenetics research programme was awarded the Sir Michael Berridge Prize for her publication in Cell Stem Cell “Amniogenesis occurs in two independent waves in primates” (DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2022.03.014). The paper describes a major advance in understanding how the amnion is formed during human development, and provides much-needed cell models that open up exciting new opportunities in basic and translational research.
Dr Jo Durgan, a postdoctoral researcher in the Signalling research programme, is the Institute’s 2021 Sir Michael Berridge Prize winner. Jo’s research into the autophagy-related protein 8 (ATG8) challenged the textbook understanding of autophagy. It was previously assumed that the same molecular modification of ATG8 occurred in both pathways, but Jo and her colleagues identified an alternative molecular change that distinguishes these closely related, but functionally distinct, autophagy-related processes. Her research has important implications within the field by allowing researchers to accurately monitor autophagy.
2020 Joint Winners
Two Reik lab members, Melanie Eckersley-Maslin, a BBSRC Discovery Fellow, and Stephen Clark, a senior researcher, were jointly awarded the 2020 Sir Michael Berridge Prize. This year’s Prize is especially poignant due to the loss of Sir Michael in February this year.
Melanie’s award recognised her two publications on the roles of Dppa2 and 4 in the epigenetic regulation of transcription during early development and in maintenance of pluripotency. Melanie’s research investigates the process of epigenetic priming where genes that are not yet active but needed in later development are ‘protected’ from permanent silencing during the genome-wide changes that occur during early development.
Melanie’s work identified developmental pluripotency associated 2 (Dppa2) and 4 (Dppa4) as epigenetic priming factors in early embryos. As a whole, Melanie’s research has uncovered how epigenetic priming factors are important gatekeepers of early embryonic cell fate transitions and raises future questions on how these mechanisms may go awry in disease.
Stephen’s award recognised his leading contributions to collaborative landmark papers establishing methods enabling multi-omic profiling of single cells and their application to understanding gastrulation, the process of mammalian germ layer specification. Formation of the three primary germ layers during gastrulation is an essential step in the establishment of the vertebrate body plan and is associated with major transcriptional changes. Global epigenetic reprogramming accompanies these changes but the role of the epigenome in regulating early cell-fate choice remains unresolved, and the coordination between different molecular layers is unclear.
In collaboration with researchers at several Cambridge research institutes, Stephen contributed to the development of a single-cell multi-omics map of chromatin accessibility, DNA methylation and RNA expression during the onset of gastrulation in mouse embryos. The resolution of this approach generates new understanding about the epigenetic priming events that determine the cellular types that emerge later in development.
Postdoc researcher Vicente Perez-Garcia received the 2019 Sir Michael Berridge Prize for his foundational research contribution to the 2018 Nature paper: Placental defects are highly prevalent in embryonic lethal mouse mutants (news item on the research here: Placental defects key factor in prenatal deaths. The research showed that commonly (and much more than previously thought) defects in embryo development can be traced back to issues with the placenta.
The research was undertaken as part of the Wellcome Trust-funded ‘Deciphering the Mechanisms of Developmental Disorders (DMDD)’ consortium and systematically studied the effect of genetic changes on the placenta using genetically edited mice. The judges praised Vincent’s significant contribution to the research in terms of the scale of the sample analysis, the experimental skills required and the range of techniques applied. The judges also highlighted the impact the research has had in the field of developmental biology.
This year, the Institute was delighted to award the Sir Michael Berridge Prize to Matthew White. The prize is awarded for his contributions to research creating and using a mouse model to learn more about the molecular biology of motor neuron disease, specifically a type known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-frontotemporal dementia (ALS-FTD).
This research was published in the leading neuroscience journal Nature Neuroscience earlier this year and the paper describes the creation and detailed analysis of a mouse model which replicates the human occurrence of the disease as closely as possible. The paper reports a possible new link between certain dementia-related proteins and ALS-FTD and suggests some possible new treatment approaches. Matthew is now based at the Maurice Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute at King’s College London.
For the first time in several years, the Berridge Prize was awarded to a PhD student, Amanda Collier, a member of the Rugg-Gunn lab. The award celebrates high-quality research and was presented to Amanda in recognition of her work as first author on a paper published by Cell Stem Cell in March.
Her investigations have helped to reveal molecular markers that can monitor differentiating cells as they progress between cell states.
The Sir Michael Berridge Prize 2016 was awarded to Alison Galloway, a recently graduated PhD student in the Institute’s Immunology research programme. Alison won the award for a recent publication in Science, on which she was first-name author. The research uncovered the role of sequence-specific RNA binding proteins in ensuring correct entry and exit to the resting phases of the cell cycle during B cell development.
Speaking about the prize, Alison said: "I'm really pleased to win this prize and would like to thank Martin Turner and my co-workers and collaborators for their contributions to getting our paper published in a top journal"
After awarding the Prize, Professor Michael Wakelam, Institute Director, said “I was delighted to award the 2016 Sir Michael Berridge Prize to Alison. Her recently published research not only reported her outstanding work but is also an excellent example of collaborative working, bringing people together from across the Institute to share the expertise residing in the research and facility teams. Her presentation of this research at the Berridge lecture was impressive in its clarity, I enjoyed it immensely. The quality of the research and the accessible way it was presented demonstrates that Alison is a very worthy recipient.”
2015 Stefan Schoenfelder
2014 Takashi Nagano
2013 Stefan Milde
2012 Sebastien Smallwood
2011 Laure Gambardella
2010 Jon Gilley
2009 Takashi Nagano
2008 Guillaume Smits
2007 John Ferguson
2006 Katherine Ewings
2005 Rui Zhao