Dundee researcher recognised for excellence

A University of Dundee researcher currently leading a major UK-wide study monitoring all Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in the country has received a prestigious award in recognition of his stellar academic career.

Professor Tom MacDonald, from the University’s School of Medicine, is this year’s winner of the Lilly Prize, awarded by the British Pharmacological Society. His research covers the efficacy, benefits, and risks of medicines as well as clinical trials and drug epidemiology relating to cardiovascular disease. He is Director of MEMO Research, a University research centre renowned for delivering clinician-led observational studies and streamlined clinical trials.

This award celebrates Professor MacDonald’s longstanding commitment to clinical pharmacology during a career that has seen him make a significant contribution to medicines safety, through both pharmacoepidemiological studies and pragmatic large-scale trials. The latest of these major studies is VAC4COVID, a study seeking thousands of volunteers to help assess the effectiveness and safety of Covid-19 vaccines as they are rolled out to the public.

Professor MacDonald said, “I am honoured to have received the Lilly Prize. It means a lot to be recognised by your peers in this way, and it further demonstrates the importance of the work we are doing here.

“I have always been fascinated how tiny pills can transform ill patients to apparent health, so it was natural for me to follow a career in clinical pharmacology, in particular studying the effectiveness and adverse effects of medicines in people.

“New medical conditions occur all the time, whether or not people have been vaccinated or have started taking new medicines. It is difficult to know how many new conditions are related and how many would have happened anyway. In the instance of VAC4COVID, we want to be able to track medical events both before and after vaccination, as well as in unvaccinated people.”

Professor MacDonald trained in basic pharmacology at the University of Aberdeen before studying Medicine at Dundee. He worked in Aberdeen and Edinburgh before being appointed as a senior lecturer at Dundee in 1990.

After completing a CIBA travelling fellowship around North America, he worked to transform MEMO Research into a unit that utilised novel ways to measure the risks and benefits of medicines via both observational methods and formal randomised clinical trials. He was appointed Reader in 1996 and Professor in 1998.

Under the leadership of Professor MacDonald and Deputy Director Professor Isla Mackenzie, MEMO Research has evolved into an organisation capable of running large, remote, multinational randomised studies that provide the high-quality data needed by doctors and regulators to improve public health. MEMO Research continues to pursue novel methods to generate high-quality, reliable and unconfounded data on medicines risks and benefits.

Anyone interested in helping to ensure Covid-19 vaccines work as they should and to support public confidence in the vaccination programme can sign up for the VAC4COVID study at http://www.vac4covid.com/.

This Lilly Prize recognises longstanding leadership in clinical pharmacology and awarded annually by the the British Pharmacological Society. The winner receives £2,000, is given the opportunity to give a lecture at a BPS meeting, and is invited to produce a manuscript for one of the Society’s journals.