MRC WIMM scientists celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Lister Institute

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The Lister Institute was founded in 1891 as a research institute researching vaccines and antitoxins, and over its impressive 125-year history has developed into one of the most prestigious funders of scientific research in the UK.

Scientists supported by the Lister Institute have been involved in some of the most pivotal scientific and medical discoveries over the past century, including development of the UK’s first diphtheria vaccine, assisting the World Health Organisation to eradicate smallpox, and the invention of DNA fingerprinting.

Today, the Lister Institute focuses on supporting the future leaders of biomedical research via the Lister Institute Research Prize Fellowship. Up to five of these highly competitive awards are granted per year, and are aimed at scientists in the early stages of independent research careers.

Two group leaders at the MRC WIMM have been awarded the prestigious Lister Institute Research Prize Fellowship: Tatjana Sauka-Spengler in 2013, and Jan Rehwinkel earlier this year. Both were in attendance at a special event in Cambridge last month to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Lister Institute, along with the Director of the MRC WIMM and MRC Molecular Haematology Unit, Professor Doug Higgs.

The event was an extension of the Institute’s annual Fellows meeting, which brings together recipients of the Lister Research Prize Fellowships both past and present to discuss their work, and learn from the wisdom of former Fellows.

Over the two days, attendees heard not only from many of the distinguished recipients of the Lister Fellowships, but also of the Lister Institute’s long-standing relationship with the Guinness family, who have supported the Institute financially and by maintaining an active role in the Governing Body since 1896. Microbiology was always a major theme in the Institute’s research, and the Guinness family has always embraced science and technology.

Edward Guinness, who was a member of the Institutes Governing Body from 1968-2001, said: “Within the Guinness family, among those most interested in science, I think there is a sense of pride that we are involved in leading medical research and have contributed to some of the most significant clinical developments of the 20th century.”

Alex Markham, Chair of the Lister Institute’s Governing Body, said: “What the Lister does – giving early-career scientists some flexible funding and a support network – is hugely underdone in this country. Although we support only a small number of early-career scientists each year, we punch above our weight. The Lister Institute is unquestionably a gem in the country’s infrastructure.”