Doctor ‘elated’ with prestigious award

Dr Mark Howarth. Picture: Royal Society of Chemistry
Dr Mark Howarth. Picture: Royal Society of Chemistry

A doctor from Bosham has received a prestigious award for his research in chemistry and life sciences.

Dr Mark Howarth, who works at the University of Oxford, has been presented with the Norman Heatley Award.

This award recognises the importance of inter- and multi- disciplinary research between chemistry and the life sciences through independent work.

Dr Howarth’s work focuses on developing useful chemicals from biological building blocks.

In particular, he has re-engineered components from bacteria to create new biochemical superglues.

One superglue from his lab consists of two parts, SpyCatcher and SpyTag, named after the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes. Whenever SpyTag and SpyCatcher meet, they react to form an unbreakable bond.

Scientists around the world have been using SpyTag and SpyCatcher in bacterial, insect or mammalian cells. They find each other within the organism and lock together.

This can have a range of applications. For example, for earlier diagnosis of infection or cancer, or in the development of vaccines against major diseases such as the Ebola virus and malaria.

On receiving the award, he said: “I am elated, and grateful to all the former and current members of my lab. Also I would like to thank all my scientific collaborators and my former mentors, Tim Elliott and Alice Ting.”

Dr Howarth receives £2,000, a medal and a certificate.

Dr Robert Parker, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry said: “It is an honour to celebrate the innovation and expertise of our community through our prizes and awards.

“We know that chemistry can be a powerful force for good, and quality research and communication of that research are more important than ever before.

“Our charitable mission is to advance excellence in the chemical sciences, and we are proud to celebrate our inspiring and influential winners, who share that mission.”

A list of 50 previous winners of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s awards have gone on to win Nobel Prizes for their pioneering work, including all of the 2016 chemistry winners, Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Fraser Stoddart and Ben Feringa.