2022 BSDB Waddington Medal winner: Val Wilson

The Waddington Medal is the only national award in Developmental Biology. It honours outstanding research performance as well as services to the subject community. The medal is awarded annually at the BSDB Spring Meeting, where the recipient presents the Waddington Medal Lecture.


We are very pleased to announce that this year’s Waddington medal winner is Professor Valerie Wilson, Personal Chair in Early Embryo Development at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh. Val’s research career has led to several seminal contributions to mammalian development, built on highly specialist skills in the micromanipulation and culture of mouse embryos.

Val began her research career as a PhD student in the lab of Martin Evans, in the Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge. She then moves to the lab of Rosa Beddington for her post-doctoral training where she mastered skills in the culture whole mouse embryos ex vivo, enabling her tackle fundamental problems in how the mammalian body axis is established during early development. A key contribution during this time was the use of chimeric embryos consisting of genetically marked mutant ES cells injected into wild type blastocysts. By performing this experiment with cells mutant for the early mesodermal marker, T (or brachyury), it was possible to demonstrate a cell autonomous requirement for this transcription factor in the transition of cells through the primitive streak (Wilson et al., 1995).

She then learned postimplantation mouse embryology, most crucially the micromanipulation and culture of whole embryos ex vivo, under the supervision of Rosa Beddington. During this time, she investigated the role of the transcription factor T(brachyury) in mouse antero-posterior axis elongation, using genetically marked mutant ES cells injected into wild type blastocysts to create chimeras.  These studies were early milestones in the transgenic mouse field as they showed that T cell-autonomously permits cells to pass through the primitive streak during late gastrulation to become mesoderm. Beautifully, Val has returned to this initial discovery using modern single cell sequencing technologies in collaboration with the labs of John Marioni and Göttgens to investigate the alterations in gene expression trajectories that T mutant cells take when developing in chimeric embryos (Guibentif et al.,2021).

Perhaps one of the most striking and important discoveries from Val’s career has arisen from her study of anterior-posterior body axis elongation. A series of remarkable finding involving serial transplantations of cell populations from older to younger embryos had demonstrated the existence of a population of stem cells capable of outliving their normal potential and continually giving rise to both spinal cord and paraxial mesodermal derivatives. First, in the caudal-lateral epiblast adjacent to the node (Cambray and Wilson, 2002), and later in the chordal-neural hinge (Cambray and Wilson, 2007). Recognising that to a full investigation of their biology requires lineage tracing of individual cells, Val embarked on an extensive retrospective clonal analysis study of mouse development together with her then-PhD student, Elena Tzouanacou and the lab of Jean-Francois Niçolas at the Insitut Pasteur, Paris. Through a thorough and systematic analysis of single cell clones from thousands of labelled embryos, it was possible to demonstrate the existence of a bipotent stem cell population called Neuromesodermal Progenitors that defy early germ layer specification and continue to generate both spinal cord and paraxial mesoderm derivatives throughout somitogenesis in the mouse embryo (Tzouanacou et al., 2009).

“Many of Val’s contributions are not recognised by authorship on papers. She is regularly consulted by early career researchers and group leaders from other labs seeking insights into their own data or technical help due to her micromanipulation skills. She always shares her time and expertise generously while asking nothing in return. Therefore, many of her valuable contributions to the community and the field remain largely unseen”.

  • Anahi Binagui-Casas

Val’s contributions to our fundamental understanding of mammalian developmental biology will continue to have a long-term impact in the field. It is because of her skills in embryology and teaching that she has been able to change the way we look at the mouse embryo, and she is therefore routinely consulted by developmental biologists for help and advice. A recent contribution has included working together with Kirstie Lawson to provide a revised mouse embryo staging guide, that has been essential in informing definitions included in the eMouseAtlas.  It is such long-lasting contributions to the field that are deserving of the BSDB Waddington medal, 2022.

Selected papers:

Wilson, V., Manson, L., Skarnes, W. C. & Beddington, R. S. (1995) The T gene is necessary for normal mesodermal morphogenetic cell movements during gastrulation. Development 121, 3, p. 877-86 10 p.

Carolina Guibentif, Jonathan A. Griffiths, Ivan Imaz-Rosshandler, Shila Ghazanfar, Jennifer Nichols, Valerie Wilson, Berthold Göttgens, John C. Marioni (2021). Diverse Routes toward Early Somites in the Mouse Embryo, Developmental Cell, Volume 56, Issue 1.

Cambray, N., and Wilson, V. (2002). Axial progenitors with extensive potency are localised to the mouse chordoneural hinge. Development 129, 4855–4866.

Cambray, N., and Wilson, V. (2007). Two distinct sources for a population of maturing axial progenitors. Development 134, 2829–2840.

2022 Cheryll Tickle Award winner: Emma Rawlins

In 2016, the BSDB introduced the Cheryll Tickle Medal, which is being awarded annually to a mid-career, female scientist for her outstanding achievements in the field of Developmental Biology. The BSDB is proud to announce the 2022 awardee as Dr.  Emma Rawlins!

Emma is an international leader in the field of mammalian lung development and disease. She has been awarded the March of Dimes Basil O’Connor Award (2011), the EuroSyStem Innovative project award (2010) and has been the recipient of highly competitive MRC career development and MRC Senior Fellowships. She was promoted to Senior Group Leader at the Gurdon Institute in 2020, and is a member of the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. She is also co-Director of the Wellcome funded Human Developmental Biology Initiative.

Emma obtained her PhD in developmental biology from the University of Edinburgh in 2002, working with Andrew Jarman on cell fate specification in the developing Drosophila PNS. She then moved to Duke University for her Post-Doctoral work with Brigid Hogan from 2004-2009. Her work during this time is probably best described as ‘prolific’, involving a series of highly important papers characterising cell lineages and stem cell populations during the development and homeostasis and repair of the mouse lung, summarised in this review (Rawlins, 2011).

Upon establishing her independent research group in the Gurdon Institute in 2009, Emma continued her emphasis on better understanding clonal relationships of cells during mouse lung development, uncovering fundamental principles of stem cell biology as she did so (Watson et al., 2015; Balasooriya et al., 2016; Laresgoiti et al., 2016; Balasooriya et al., 2017). She then pioneered the development of human lung organoids, becoming a world leader in the use of organoid cultures to study aspects of human development and organogenesis (Nikolić et al., 2017).

More recently, Emma’s team has developed a powerful “Organoid Easytag” system to genetically manipulate human cells using CRISPR technology (Sun et al., 2021). Already, this technology is being exploited by multiple labs across the world and is opening up the study of human organogenesis even further, enabling the use of CRISPR screens to uncover novel molecular mechanisms (Sun et al., 2022).

“She (Emma) has established a very extensive network of collaborators both within and outside the University, and she places a strong emphasis on mentoring her trainees, helping them define and achieve their individual career goals. Emma is highly collegial and interactive, and she can be counted on for high quality contributions in diverse areas”.

  • Julie Ahringer and Shankar Srivinas

Clearly, Emma’s commitment to both gaining fundamental insights into developmental biology and providing a supportive environment both inside and outside her lab, makes her very deserving of the 2022 BSDB Cheryll Tickle medal!





Selected papers:

Rawlins E. L. The building blocks of mammalian lung development. (2011) Developmental Dynamics 240, 463-476.

Watson, JK, Rulands S, Wilkinson AC, Wuidart A, Ousset M, Van Keymeulen A, Göttgens B, Blanpain C, Simons BD, Rawlins EL. (2015). Clonal dynamics reveal two distinct populations of basal cells in slow turnover airway epithelium. Cell Reports 12, 90-101.

Balasooriya GI, Johnson J, Basson MA, Rawlins EL. (2016) An FGFR1-SPRY2 signalling axis limits basal cell proliferation in the steady-state airway epithelium. Developmental Cell 37, 85-97.

Laresgoiti U, Nikolić MZ, Rao C, Brady JL, Richardson RV, Batchen EJ, Chapman KE and Rawlins EL (2016) Lung epithelial tip progenitors integrate Glucocorticoid and STAT3-mediated signals to control progeny fate. Development 143, 3686-3699.

Balasooriya GI, Goschorska M, Piddini E, Rawlins EL (2017) FGFR2 is required for airway basal cell self-renewal and terminal differentiation. Development 144, 1600-1606.

Nikolić MZ, Caritg O, Jeng Q, Johnson J, Sun D, Howell, KJ, Brady JL, Laresgoiti U, Allen G, Butler R, Zilbauer M, Giangreco A, Rawlins EL (2017) Human embryonic lung epithelial tips are multipotent progenitors that can be expanded in vitro as long-term self-renewing organoids. elife. 2017 Jun 30. doi: 10.7554/eLife.26575.

Sun D, Evans LD, Perrone F, Sokleva V, Lim K, Rezakhani S, Lutolf M, Zilbauer M, Rawlins EL (2021) A functional genetic toolbox for human tissue-derived organoids. eLife DOI: 10.7554/eLife.67886

Sun D, Batlle OL, van den Ameele J, Thomas C, He P, Lim K, Tang W, Xu C, Meyer KB, Teichmann SA, Marioni J, Jackson SP, Brand AH, Rawlins EL. An organoid CRISPRi screen revealed that SOX9 primes human fetal lung tip progenitors to receive WNT and RTK signals. BioRxiv: doi.org/10.1101/2022.01.27.478034

BSDB 2021 Newsletter

Please find the 2021 BSDB newsletter here!

The newsletter of the BSDB forms an essential summary of all that has happened over the previous year, including our officer’s reports, our recent award winners from 2021 and updates from The Company of Biologists. Please take the time to have a look through the reports of both the 2021 Gurdon summer students and those from The Crick Institute who all managed to do some great developmental biology during their projects!

Many thanks yet again to Dillan Saunders at the University of Cambridge for formatting typesetting this newsletter.!Remember, Ito explore the BSDB newsletters of the last 10 years, they are archived on our website.

BSDB/BSCB 2022 Conference is now open for registration!

We are delighted to announce that registration for the BSDB/BSCB 2022 conference is now open.

Register Here!

     Featuring talks from our recently awarded medal winners!

The 2022 Beddington Medal winner Guillermo Serrano Najera


The 2022 Cheryll Tickle Award winner: Emma Rawlins

Full award announcements will be communicated at the meeting, along with the super secret winners of our Waddington and Wolpert awards.


Submit your abstracts here





The Company of Biologists Journal Meeting: Virtual Meeting: Developmental Disorders: From Mechanism to Treatment

Virtual Meeting: Developmental Disorders: From Mechanism to Treatment

Organisers: Phil Beales, James Briscoe, Monica J. Justice and Lee Niswander

Date: 14-17 September 2021

Location: Online