Sir James Black Drug Discovery of the Year

Previously known as just Drug Discovery of the Year, this award recognises the achievements of teams of scientists who discover new drugs, and highlights how crucial pharmacology is in the development of new medicines. In 2023 it was renamed as the Sir James Black Drug Discovery of the Year award after Sir James Whyte Black (1924-2010).


The award will be given to the discovery team behind a drug (including small molecules, RNA therapeutics, peptide and antibodies, cell and gene therapies) which is an exciting new prospect that best fulfils the following criteria:

  1. Gained regulatory approval in the EU and/or the US, in the year preceding the award.
  2. Preclinical to clinical translation shows the importance of pharmacology in the drug discovery/development process.
  3. Has a significant impact on an unmet medical need with potential for a large Societal impact.
  4. First-in-class, or is a significant improvement over other drugs in the class.
  5. Mechanism of action known.

Previous winners

2024 mavacamten

Developed by a team at Bristol Myers Squibb, mavacamten is a first-in-class myosin inhibitor designed to treat patients with obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), an often inherited heart condition which causes the heart muscle wall to become thickened, blocking the flow of blood from the heart
Read more here.

2023 Rybrevant®▼

The team behind the development of the lung cancer treatment Rybrevant®▼ (amivantamab) were awarded Drug Discovery of the Year 2023. Scientists at Janssen Research & Development, LLC, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, led the preclinical and clinical development of amivantamab. Janssen R&D and Genmab A/S co-discovered amivantamab.
Read more here.

2022 Evrysdi

The 2022 award was given to Roche in collaboration with PTC Therapeutics and the SMA Foundation for Evrysdi® (risdiplam) – an oral treatment for Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
Read more here.

2021 Givosiran

The Alnylam Pharmaceuticals team was recognised for the development of Givosiran (Givlaari®) - an siRNA medicine for treatment of hepatic porphyria.
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2020 Caplacizumab

Awarded for the development of Caplacizumab (Cablivi®), which was developed by Ablynx, and then acquired by Sanofi in 2018. Cablivi is a first in class nanobody therapy to treat adults with acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (aTTP), a rare life-threatening autoimmune blood-clotting disorder. 
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2019 Hemlibra

Recognised the team of researchers from Roche, Chugai and Genentech responsible for the development of Hemlibra® a bispecific factor IXa- and factor X-directed antibody for the treatment of Haemophilia A.
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2018 Strimvelis

Awarded to GlaxoSmithKline’s rare diseases division responsible for developing Strimvelis, a medicine used to treat adenosine deaminase (ADA) deficiency.
Read more here.

2017 Lumacraftor/Ivacraftor

Recognised the team at Vertex Pharmaceuticals responsible for the development of lumacraftor/ivacaftor, based on a novel, innovative pharmacological mechanism of action and treating a significant unmet medical need in patients suffering from Cystic Fibrosis.

2016 Sofosbuvir

Awarded to the Gilead team for the development of sofosbuvir a HCV polymerase inhibitor for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C (CHC) in adults.

2015 Obinutuzumab

Awarded to the team at Roche responsible for the development of obinutuzumab, based on high unmet need and novelty as the first glycoengineered, type 2 anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

2014 Mekinist

Recognised the team at GlaxoSmithKline responsible for the development of Mekinist (trametinib) a first-in-class MEK kinase inhibitor to demonstrate an unmet medical need for the treatment of advanced or unresectable melanoma, a disease for which standard chemotherapeutics are largely ineffective.

2013 Vismodegib

Awarded to the team at Genentech for the development of Erivedge® (vismodegib). Vismodegib is the first Hedgehog (Hh) pathway inhibitor approved for the treatment of adults with metastatic or locally advanced basal cell carcinoma (BCC).

Published: in Prizes and awards