Birmingham biochemist wins prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry Award

Posted on Tuesday 6th May 2014

Professor Gurdyal S. Besra from the University of Birmingham has been named the Royal Society of Chemistry Jeremy Knowles Award winner for 2014. 

Professor Besra’s research aims to tackle one of the world’s major healthcare challenges, tuberculosis (TB).  Despite the existence of treatments for the disease TB still accounts for nearly nine million new infections and over one million deaths each year.  

Dr Robert Parker, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry said: “Each year we present Prizes and Awards to chemical scientists who have made an outstanding contribution, be that in their area of research, in industry or academia. 

“We’re working to shape the future of the chemical sciences for the benefit of science and humanity and these Prizes and Awards give recognition to true excellence.

“Our winners can be very proud to follow in the footsteps of some of the most influential and important chemical scientists in history.”

Professor Besra of the University of Birmingham School of Biosciences said: “we are honoured to receive this award for our research. We aim to uncover new targets and drugs for tuberculosis and related studies to uncover novel immunotherapeutics”

An incredible 47 previous winners of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Awards have gone on to win Nobel Prizes for their pioneering work, including Harry Kroto, Fred Sanger and Linus Pauling.

Indeed, one of the 2012 Royal Society of Chemistry Prize winners, Arieh Warshel, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry last year. 

Professor Besra’s work, which lies at the interface of biochemistry, bacteriology, chemistry, immunology, microbiology and structural biology, aims to increase knowledge of the basic biology of the special cell wall of the bacterium responsible for TB (M. tuberculosis).  

His team are looking at the synthesis of fats that make up the bacterial cell envelope, the enzymes that assemble the sugars in M. tuberculosis, and the synthesis of the molecular mesh that covers the bacterium.  The information from his studies will have the potential to identify new drug targets and aid in the development of anti-TB compounds.

Notes for editors

  • The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Prizes and Awards recognise achievements by individuals, teams and organisations in advancing the chemical sciences. We want to reward those undertaking excellent work in the chemical sciences from across the world.
  • There are over 60 Prizes and Awards available in the main portfolio, covering all areas of the chemical sciences.  So whether you work in research, business, industry or education, recognition is open to everyone.
  • The Royal Society of Chemistry is the world’s leading chemistry community, advancing excellence in the chemical sciences. With over 49,000 members and a knowledge business that spans the globe, we are the UK’s professional body for chemical scientists; a not-for-profit organisation with 170 years of history and an international vision of the future. We promote, support and celebrate chemistry. We work to shape the future of the chemical sciences – for the benefit of science and humanity.
  • For further information please contact Faye Jackson at the University of Birmingham press office on +44 (0)121 414 6029 or for out of hours enquiries please contact pressoffice@contacts.bham.ac.uk or call +44 (0)7789921165