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January 03, 2022

191. Top Tip: Sharon Peacock CBE, Executive Director & Chair at COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium: Use your power of listening, and think through problems using different perspectives.

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Use your power of listening, and think through problems using different perspectives.

191. Sharon Peacock CBE, Professor at the University of Cambridge Sharon Peacock has had a diverse career that has spanned training and experience as a dental nurse, general adult nurse, end-of-life care practitioner, physician, clinical microbiologist, researcher, educator, mentor and non-executive director. This diversity has a common theme, with a lifetime of connection with the National health Service, which Sharon considers to be a jewel in the crown of the UK. She also has a degree in History. Her story is one of endurance training in the art of learning in the service of others – her mantra is ‘learn more to give back more’. Sharon Peacock is currently Professor of Public Health and Microbiology at the University of Cambridge. She is the Executive Director of the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (or COG-UK), which has sequenced SARS-CoV-2 for the UK pandemic response. This has provided the data to track how the virus evolves and changes to become more transmissible and to dodge our immune system. Sharon was key to establishing the Consortium, which required a leadership style that revolved around consensus and consultation of its 600 members. Making all data and methods open access for others to use has been a guiding principle.

Sharon is also a Non-Executive Director on the Board of the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where she chairs the Quality Committee. Endurance and persistence were important to her ability to raise over £60 million pounds in science and research funding, publish over 500 peer-reviewed papers, and train numerous scientists in the UK, and in Thailand where she worked for 7 years. Sharon has received numerous markers of esteem, including being a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. In 2015, she received a CBE for services to medical microbiology, and in 2018 she won the Unilever Colworth Prize for her outstanding contribution to translational microbiology. Her current research focus is future looking and thinking of future generations – how can we create better data linkage combined with the latest diagnostic technologies that together lead to rapid detection and rapid control the next pandemic?

Professor Sharon Peacock, from the University of Cambridge and the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium, has been awarded the MRC Millennium Medal 2021. The MRC Millennium Medal is the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) most prestigious prize.

It is awarded to exceptional researchers who have made major contributions towards MRC’s mission to improve health, wealth and quality of life.

Professor Sharon Peacock is being honoured for:

  • her pioneering work in pathogen sequencing
  • visionary leadership of COG-UK
  • outstanding contributions to advancing equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in research.

Professor Peacock will be presented with the medal commissioned from the Royal Mint at an awards ceremony in spring 2022.

Pioneering work Professor Fiona Watt, MRC Executive Chair, comments:

Professor Sharon Peacock is one of the world’s leading academic clinical microbiologists.

Her pioneering work on pathogen sequencing and her visionary leadership of COG-UK have had a profound impact on national and international policy and played a critical role in the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Sharon’s commitment to advancing EDI in research by leading women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) initiatives has been truly remarkable.

MRC is delighted to recognise Sharon’s achievements by awarding her the MRC Millennium Medal 2021.

Leadership tip – Use your power of listening, and think through problems using different perspectives.

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