8 March 2012

Biochemical Society award for JIC Microbiologist

Professor Mervyn Bibb of the John Innes Centre has been awarded the Heatley Medal and Prize by the Biochemical Society.
Professor Dale Sanders FRS, Director of the John Innes Centre, said: “The JIC is proud to congratulate Merv Bibb on his award of the Heatley Medal.  This prestigious award was last won by Nobel Laureate Sir Venki Ramakrishnan and reflects Merv’s enormous contribution to the discovery and development of novel antibiotics.  At a time when antibiotic resistance in bacteria is becoming a serious health concern, Merv’s innovative approaches - based on knowledge of genomes and unlocking the expression of normally-quiescent genes - promise major health benefits that emerge from front-rank basic research.”

An outstanding graduate of the University of East Anglia, Professor Bibb joined the John Innes Centre in the early 70's as an undergraduate working on a project about Streptomyces phages. On graduation, he joined Professor Sir David Hopwood's group and made key discoveries and technical advances that heralded the beginning of Streptomyces molecular genetics.

His four decades of research with the John Innes Centre and in California have seen him apply the highest standards of biochemical and molecular rigour in his elucidation of fundamental aspects of Streptomyces gene expression. More recently, his work on a new class of antibiotics, the Streptomyces lantibiotics, and the regulation of antibiotic biosynthesis has led to the emergence of two companies.
Professor Keith Chater FRS, John Innes Foundation Emeritus Fellow and long-time colleague of Professor Bibb said “Merv is a genuine home grown talent, and I congratulate him on this prestigious award, which we all agree is well deserved.”

The Heatley Medal and Prize is awarded by the Biochemical Society for exceptional work that makes biochemistry widely accessible and usable, or for achievements that enable widespread progress and understanding. It is named in honour of Dr Norman Heatley, the scientist who overcame wartime shortages to make the production of penicillin possible and paved the way for mass production. Professor Bibb will receive the Heatley Medal at the 2013 Biochemistry Society Conference, where he will also give the Heatley Lecture along with the other 2013 award winners.

The Biochemical Society promotes the advancement of the molecular biosciences and is the largest discipline-based learned society in the Biosciences.
Professor Steve Busby, Chairman of the Awards Committee, said, ‘The Biochemical Society's Awards will recognise scientists at all career stages, across the whole breadth of the molecular biosciences, and the award lectures in 2013 will showcase the amazing contributions that the winners have made.’

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