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Three top scientists awarded the Chris McGuigan prize

12 October 2023

The bi-annual Chris McGuigan Drug Discovery Awards took place on 21 September 2023 at the Hadyn Ellis building.

These prestigious awards that celebrate excellence in the field of drug discovery are made possible by a generous endowment by Dr Geoff Henson, a friend of Professor Chris McGuigan, who passed away in 2015. Professor McGuigan was a hugely influential figure in drug discovery, not only as a brilliant scientist but also thanks to his extraordinary ability to achieve clinical translation of his work.

Awarding scientists at various stages of their careers, prizes are given to a Cardiff University PhD author, an under 35 rising star and a main prize to a scientist who has achieved outstanding success in the course of their whole career.

After the rigorous judging process had been completed, the winners were announced: Mr Nicholas Bullock won the McGuigan Outstanding PhD Thesis Award, Dr Gilda Padalino the McGuigan Rising Star Award, and the McGuigan Award for Distinguished Work in Drug Discovery went to Professor David Thurston.

Mr Nicholas Bullock
Mr Nicholas Bullock

Mr Bullock, who also works as a surgeon in University Hospital Wales, wrote his PhD on DNA damage repair in advanced prostate cancer, a thesis made all the more remarkable as it coincided with the Covid 19 pandemic - where he was called back into the clinic – and the arrival of his first child.

Gilda Padalino
Dr Gilda Padalino and Head of School, Professor Mark Gumbleton

Dr Padalino, who currently works as a lecturer in Swansea University, won the rising star prize for her work on anti-schistosomal drug discoveries. An expert in medicinal chemistry, it is Dr Padalino’s intention to find novel ways of attacking schistosoma, a parasitic flatworm which infects millions of people worldwide every year.

"Winning this price represents a remarkable recognition of the past work and an inspiration for the future. It’s a great privilege to have contributed to Prof Chris McGuigan's legacy and I hope this award will encourage more female scientists to step forward in science"

Dr Gilda Padalino

The McGuigan Award for Distinguished Work in Drug Discovery was given to Professor David Thurston of King’s College London. Professor Thurston was a scientific co-founder of three companies, one of which was involved with the discovery of DNA-interactive Antibody-Drug Conjugate (ADC) payloads, that have technology that not only takes drugs to the part of the diseased tissue where they need to be, but also has a chemical structure that allows them to travel through the cell membrane more efficiently than traditional antibodies.

Prof. Thurston
Professor David Thurston with Mark Gumbleton

"The symposium was excellent, and I particularly enjoyed the presentations from Drs Nicholas Bullock and Gilda Padalino whose talks provided insight into the quality of the drug discovery research on-going at Cardiff University, building upon the foundations so expertly laid by Professor McGuigan"

Professor David Thurston

Researchers and clinicians from all over the country attended the prestigious event to celebrate in the successes of the prize-winners as well as watching them present their findings. Following the event the winners celebrated with a meal at St Davids Hotel in Cardiff Bay.

Professor Thurston said, ‘It was a great honour to be presented with a Chris McGuigan Drug Discovery Award for two reasons. First, because it recognised my own personal achievements in the drug discovery field but also, and most importantly, because the award is associated with Professor Chris McGuigan who I knew and came to admire as a world-leading medicinal chemist and drug discoverer.’

The prize winners
The prize winners

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