Rank Prize for Nutrition awarded to Professor Cathie Martin

Professor Cathie Martin has been awarded the prestigious Rank Prize for Nutrition for her globally significant research in making fruit and vegetables more nutritious. 

A Group Leader at the John Innes Centre and Professor of plant science at the University of East Anglia (UEA), Professor Martin will formally receive the award for 2022 at a ceremony early next year. 

The award recognises those who have made a significant contribution to human and animal nutrition, where their ideas have been carried through to practical applications of benefit to humankind.  

Professor Dale Sanders, Director of the John Innes Centre said: “The award of this prestigious prize to Cathie Martin gives wonderful recognition to the enormous impact that Cathie’s work has had in the field metabolic engineering. 

“From fundamental discovery to innovative ways of improving human diet, Cathie’s research contributions have been inspirational.” 

Professor Martin’s research into plant genetics and metabolism uses plant science tools to improve human diet and health with special emphasis on biofortification and using plant metabolic engineering to enhance foods nutritionally. 

Reflecting on the award she said: “I was sitting in my office at home, locked down, but snug with a log fire even though it was April 1st, when I received an amazing email telling me I had been nominated for the Rank Prize. Bursting with excitement, I emailed my husband who replied, ‘Do you know what day it is?’ Fortunately, his cynicism proved unfounded, and receiving the Rank Prize is wonderful recognition that our research might have achieved something worthwhile.”

The prize will be formally awarded at an event in London on January 17, 2022. This year will mark the 50th anniversary of Rank Prize, which has been celebrating outstanding scientific breakthroughs since 1972.

Founded by Lord J. Arthur Rank, a British industrialist and philanthropist, the Rank Prize is awarded bi-annually in the fields of nutrition and optoelectronics; two areas Lord Rank built businesses upon.  

Chair of Rank Prize’s nutrition committee, Professor John C. Mathers said: “Professor Martin’s outstanding research combines fundamental insights into the genetics of metabolic processes in plants and how we can use them to enhance the nutritional composition of human foods. She is a powerful advocate, and practitioner, of plant science for human health. As we tackle the twin challenges of increasing human health and protecting the health of the planet, her research is globally significant.” 

Previous John Innes Centre winners of the Rank Prize for Nutrition are Professor Graham Moore who shared the award with Professor Keith Edwards of the University of Bristol in 2018; Professor Mike Gale FRS in 1997, and Professor Mike Bevan FRS in 1987.  

Executive Chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Melanie Welham said: “For nearly 40 years, Cathie Martin’s work at the John Innes Centre – which BBSRC is proud to fund – has focused on how plant science can improve human diet and health”. 

“Her work on biofortification of fruit and vegetables to help guard against chronic diseases in humans, has had a vast impact. We often hear about ‘super foods’ and ‘super drinks’, yet it is Professor Martin’s work on phenolic compounds that has underpinned these concepts with real science.” 

“Cathie is a hugely deserved winner of the Rank Prize for Nutrition and I, along with everyone else at BBSRC, congratulate her on this fantastic recognition of all her achievements.” 

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