The Union

The Union Medal

TB pioneer Denis Mitchison awarded The Union Medal

Prof Denis A Mitchison, one of the great pioneers of tuberculosis research was awarded The Union medal, at the Inaugural Session of the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Cape Town, South Africa. The Union Medal is bestowed on members who have made an outstanding contribution to the control of tuberculosis or lung health by their scientific work and/or actions in the field. 

Prof Mitchison, who is 96 years old, was unable to travel to South Africa, but provided an acceptance speech on video. 

Prof Mitchison’s distinguished career in tuberculosis research began with his pioneering studies on anti-tuberculosis chemotherapy more than half a century ago. The author of some 250 scientific papers, he is the recipient of many awards, including the Stop TB Partnership Kochon Prize (2008) and the British Thoracic Society Medal (2000). He also received the Medal of Honour from The Union in 1987 and holds an Honorary lifelong membership

A graduate of Trinity College at Cambridge and University College Hospital Medical School, Prof Mitchison completed postgraduate studies in pathology before beginning studies on streptomycin at Brompton Hospital in 1947, as one of three people on the original bacteriological committee. In 1956 he was appointed director of the Medical Research Council Unit for Research on Drug Sensitivity in Tuberculosis at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in Hammersmith (now Imperial College). In that role he was responsible for the design of groundbreaking randomised trials in Madras, India comparing inpatient and outpatient treatment of TB – the first major studies of home care.

In 1985 Dr Mitchison retired from his position but not from science. He continued his work at Hammersmith for four years before moving to Saint George’s, University of London, where he has continued an active career in tuberculosis research well into his 90s.

With Dr Amina Jindani and colleagues in South Africa, he developed the technique of measuring the early bactericidal activity of drugs, which is now standard practice as the initial step in the phase II of clinical development of new drugs. He also introduced the concept of the 8-week phase II study with the proportion of patients obtaining negative sputum culture at 8 weeks, a standard assessment in most such studies. More recently he developed (with Dr Geraint Davies and the South African MRC) a new type of phase II 8-week study using modeling of counts of TB in sputum during treatment. He has done work on several new anti-TB drugs and participated in clinical trials on high dosage rifamycins.

Watch the video

Read about other awards presented at the conference: