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Prize Lecture winners 2017

25 October 2016

Prize Lecture winners 2017

The Microbiology Society is delighted to announce the winners of the 2017 Prizes, which recognise significant contributions to the field of microbiology. The winners will each present a Prize Lecture at the Microbiology Society’s Annual Conference 2017, being held from 3–6 April 2017 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) in Scotland.

Prize Medal

The 2017 Microbiology Society Prize Medal will be awarded to Michael Rossman, Hanley Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences at Purdue University, USA. Michael is well known for his enormous contributions to the development of the science of protein crystallography and our understanding of virus structures. In 1985, he and his colleagues first solved the structure of human rhinovirus type 14, a serotype of the common cold virus. More recently, he has also worked on the structures of many other viruses, including enterovirus type 68 and dengue.

Michael has over 500 papers to his name, and has received numerous awards, including being elected as a Member of the National Academy of Sciences and as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society.

Of his award, he said: “I am deeply touched by the honour given to me by being awarded the Microbiology Society Prize Medal. Most scientists, including me, have experienced the pleasure of making significant discoveries. It is a wonderful feeling to know that others have also appreciated and enjoyed the significance of a discovery and in particular the intellectual journey that made the discovery, or more likely series of discoveries, possible. However, success is not the end of the road, but a challenge for further exploration.”

The Prize Medal is awarded to an outstanding microbiologist who is a global leader in their field and whose work has had a far-reaching impact beyond the discipline of microbiology. The recipient is awarded their engraved medal and £1,000 at the Society’s Annual Conference.

Marjory Stephenson Prize

The 2017 Marjory Stephenson Prize will be awarded to Professor Steve Busby FRS from the University of Birmingham. Steve works to understand the regulation of gene expression in bacteria, particularly focusing on transcription regulation in Escherichia coli. His work on the cAMP receptor protein (CRP) and the mechanism by which it activates transcription has become a model for gene regulation, taught to undergraduates and found in textbooks worldwide.

In more recent work, Steve and colleagues have identified how pathogenic enterohaemorrhagic E. coli senses its environment, and switches on factors that enhance virulence, as it passes through a host.

He said of his Prize: "I am very grateful to the Microbiology Society for this award, and am greatly looking forward to contributing to the lecture series."

The Prize is named after Society founding member and former President Marjory Stephenson. The Prize is awarded to an individual who has made exceptional contributions to the discipline of microbiology. The recipient is awarded £1,000.

Colworth Prize

The 2017 Colworth Prize will be awarded to Professor Martin Ryan from the University of St Andrews. Martin studies picornaviruses, focusing on foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV), an important pathogen of cloven-hooved animals. In the 1990s, Martin discovered and characterised a short peptide sequence from FMDV known as 2A that allows multiple proteins to be cleaved from a single amino acid chain, without the need for proteases. This sequence has opened up numerous translational opportunities in the field of biotechnology, by allowing simultaneous expression of two or more proteins across a wide variety of plant and animal cells.

Martin says: “I am thrilled to be awarded the 2017 Colworth Prize – especially from the Society whose work I value and have had such a long-standing relationship. Ours, and collaborators’, work on 2A has been doubly gratifying: ‘intellectual’ in the discovery and characterisation, but even more so in how this technology has found so many different utilities within biomedicine and biotechnology. I have been fortunate in that the fundamental and applied research we have conducted has produced such ‘impact’.”

The Colworth Prize is sponsored by Unilever Research’s Colworth Laboratory.

Fleming Prize

The 2017 Fleming Prize will be awarded to Professor Stephen Baker, who works at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Stephen’s work focuses on enteric diseases, such as norovirus, Shigella spp. and Salmonella typhi, which cause a significant disease burden in low- and middle-income countries. His recent work has looked at the evolution and spread of antibiotic resistance, and he combines genomics and epidemiology to provide a better understanding of disease outbreaks. Although working in Vietnam, Stephen also manages research programmes in Nepal and Indonesia, looking at the genetics, epidemiology and treatment of enteric infections.

Steve said of his award: “Winning the Fleming Prize from the Microbiology Society is an unexpected but fantastic honour. Looking down the list at previous winners is pretty intimidating, and I hope I can continue in following a similar career path as some of them.”

The Prize is named after Sir Alexander Fleming, founder and first President of the Society for General Microbiology (1945–1947), and is awarded to an early career researcher who has achieved an outstanding research record. The recipient is awarded £1,000.

You can find out more about the Annual Conference 2017, including details on registering and submitting abstracts, on the event's page.

Image credit: Michael Rossman.

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