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NIHR's COVID-tackling contribution recognised in Queen’s birthday honours

The NIHR is delighted to announce that several leaders within the NIHR have received awards from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as part of her birthday honours.

Divya Chadha Manek OBE, Professor Hywel Williams OBE and Dr Jonathan Sheffield CBE have all been given their awards in recognition of the various contributions they have made in responding to the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

The NIHR has played a critical role in the fight against COVID-19 - funding, enabling and delivering ground-breaking research that has saved lives in the UK and around the world. NIHR- supported research led to the first life saving treatments for COVID-19, such as dexamethasone, as well as evidence to establish some of the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines.

Divya Chadha Manek

Divya Chadha Manek is the Director of Business Development and Marketing for the NIHR’s Clinical Research Network. She was seconded onto the Vaccines Task Force in May 2020 and played a significant role in establishing the vaccine research registry, which enables people to take part in Covid vaccine trials and now has over 500,000 people registered. She has been awarded an OBE for her “services to government during the Covid-19 response”.

Divya Chadha Manek said: 

“I am truly deeply honoured and also incredibly humbled to receive this award from Her Majesty. The fact that I played even a small role in the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic gives me a real sense of personal pride that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

“But this honour is one for the team. It is about the UK clinical research environment, which delivered great results for the benefit of the world. I am incredibly proud of my many colleagues I worked with, both on the vaccines task force and across the NIHR. It was such an incredible team effort that I feel as though I’m accepting this award on behalf of all of us.”  

Professor Hywel Williams

Professor Hywel Williams is the former Director of the NIHR’s Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme. He currently sits as Professor of Dermato-Epidemiology & Co-Director of the Centre of Evidence-Based Dermatology in the School of Medicine at the University Nottingham. Hywel worked as a key advisor to a number of funding and oversight groups set up to help manage the Covid-19 research response, which ensured that effective treatments reached NHS patients in record time. Recognising not only his contribution during the pandemic, but also his work as HTA director and his distinction in the field of dermatology, Hywel has received an OBE for services to higher education and medical research. 

Professor Hywel Williams said: 

“It’s a huge privilege to receive this honour. This pandemic has reconfirmed to me what I’ve strongly believed throughout my career: that the UK has the best health research sector in the world, and that through effective communication and collaboration we can rise to even the tallest of orders. 

“In my various roles during the pandemic I tried to put these principles into practice by helping each team know what the other was doing, and so deliver a more impactful, timely and joined-up response. To have been part of what I think has been an incredible scientific and operational response is incredibly fulfilling.  

“Working with the UK’s health research community continues to be a great source of inspiration to me, and I’m grateful to all of those I’ve worked with both recently and across my career.” 

Dr Jonathan Sheffield

During the pandemic, Dr Jonathan Sheffield, provided operational leadership for the Covid research response across the DHSC, NIHR and NHS. He is the former Chief Executive of the NIHR’s Clinical Research Network, with a long record of delivering operational support to a wide range of health research in the NHS. Following on from his OBE in 2009, Jonathan has been awarded a CBE for his “services to medical research, particularly during the Covid-19 response”.

Dr Jonathan Sheffield said:

“The NIHR’s Clinical Research Network has long been a jewel in the UK’s health research crown. Its ability to set up and deliver Covid-19 studies on the ground through its network of amazing clinical health research staff.  We have recruited hundreds of thousands of people to Covid-19 studies and is globally recognised as one of the defining successes of the UK’s pandemic response.

“The NIHR infrastructure deployed in the NHS over the last ten years had already demonstrated the capacity and capability of NHS clinical staff to deliver research. Having such systems, and people, in place during the pandemic allowed seamless patient recruitment even when the NHS was at its most stretched.  

“To have received this honour from Her Majesty the Queen is extremely special, and I’m grateful for the recognition that comes with it, but would also like to thank everybody in the country: patients and health care workers who have contributed to the success of the nation's research response.”

Remarkable energy

Welcoming these awards, as well as numerous others that people connected with the NIHR have received as a result of their work on Covid-19 and other health research, Dr Louise Wood, Director of Science, Research and Evidence at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and co-lead of the NIHR said: 

"Divya, Hywel and Jonathan’s recognition is richly deserved. Their tireless work over the last 18 months has made, in different ways, a tangible impact on the UK’s covid response and to patient outcomes globally. 

"I offer my congratulations to them and other colleagues recognised. I’m grateful for their outstanding contributions and to the many hundreds of incredibly hard-working people across the NIHR and beyond, whose remarkable energy and expertise led the global effort against Covid-19, producing some of the most significant findings, treatments and vaccines to date.  

“If anything demonstrates the value of health researchers working in collaboration with each other, surely it is our response to Covid-19. It is crucial that we continue to work in this way.”

Minister for Innovation, Lord Bethell, said:

“This is a fantastic achievement and is testament to the brilliant work NIHR do, particularly leading the way in producing ground-breaking research during the pandemic.

 “The UK has consistently been front-footed in its innovation and the scale at which research into treatments for COVID-19 has taken place in the UK is unparalleled, with NIHR playing a key role in scientific discoveries over the past year.

 “I am proud and grateful to every single person who continues to spearhead vital research and their pioneering work has proved crucial in helping us better understand this virus. The success and speed of our vaccination programme is testament to this.”