John Innes Centre Director, Professor Dale Sanders has been honoured with one of China’s most prestigious awards in recognition of his work in establishing world leading scientific collaborations.
The China International Science and Technology Co-operation Award is made directly by the Chinese state and is the nation’s highest scientific honour for non-national individuals and institutions.
Professor Sanders said: “This is a great honour. Although it is a wonderful personal recognition of my cooperation with China, I receive this award on behalf of all my Chinese and UK collaborators and in gratitude for all their work.”
“I see a very bright future for UK-China research collaboration. We must ensure that our work together strengthens the scientific excellence of both nations, but we must also recognise that our success comes with a responsibility to share the benefit with society in the UK, in China and globally. I expect that UK-China research collaboration will have great impact in the coming decade, including on agricultural productivity, on the well-being of our citizens and on the health of our planet.”
Normally the award would be presented by President Xi in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing but Professor Sanders was unable to attend the ceremony due to the COVID19 pandemic. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang expressed his thanks to the foreign scientists at the ceremony last week.
In 2014, the John Innes Centre and the Chinese Academy of Sciences established the CAS-JIC Centre of Excellence in Plant and Microbial Science (CEPAMS).
Professor Sanders highlighted the work of Cathie Martin from the John Innes Centre with Chen Xiao-Ya and Evangelos Tatsis of the Chinese Academy of Science Centre for Molecular Plant Sciences in Shanghai, an example of collaboration between the John Innes Centre and Chinese collaborators.
This collaboration aims understand how the plants used in traditional Chinese medicine are effective in preventing and treating disease.
Quoting Mao Zedong, Professor Sanders commented, “Chinese medicine is a great treasure house and should be diligently explored and improved upon.”
Professor Sanders has, since 2010, been Director of the John Innes Centre, a world-leading plant and microbial research institute which seeks to unlock the diversity of nature for the benefit of plants, of people and of the planet.
CEPAMS has funded over thirty collaborative research projects in agricultural genetics and the discovery of naturally produced molecules that have the potential to benefit human health. The partnership has recruited ten CEPAMS Group Leaders who have set up research laboratories in either Beijing or Shanghai.
The John Innes Centre also has a strong collaboration on wheat and pea genomics with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences’ Agricultural Genomics Institute at Shenzhen.
Professor Sander’s directorship has seen a marked rise in the number of Chinese scientists who develop their careers at the John Innes Centre. Now comprising more than 10 per cent of staff, this group of outstanding scientists includes Dr Xiaoqi Feng and Dr Yiliang Ding both Group Leaders at the John Innes Centre and, both with prestigious European Research Council funding.
Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation said: “Professor Sanders’ recognition through this prestigious award is thoroughly deserved, and reflects his outstanding contribution to international research collaboration. UKRI has strong research partnerships with China, which benefit both our citizens and the wider world. This award highlights the strength of those partnerships and our support of a collaborative and secure global research and innovation system that harnesses the collective expertise of scientists and innovators as we work together to navigate the global challenges of our time.”