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Norfolk Business Awards 2019

Scientists honoured during 'golden age of discovery' at Norwich Research Park

Prof Anne Osbourn of the John Innes Centre has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Picture: John Innes Centre.

Prof Anne Osbourn of the John Innes Centre has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Picture: John Innes Centre.

John Innes Centre

Two prominent Norwich scientists have won international honours for their exceptional contributions to plant biology and climate change.

Prof Corinne Le Quéré, professor of climate change science at the UEA, has been awarded a Royal Society Research Professorship. Picture: UEAProf Corinne Le Quéré, professor of climate change science at the UEA, has been awarded a Royal Society Research Professorship. Picture: UEA

Prof Anne Osbourn, a project leader at the John Innes Centre and director of the Norwich Research Park Industrial Biotechnology Alliance, has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) – becoming only the 30th researcher to receive the award in the 109-year history of the JIC.

It reflects Prof Osbourn's pioneering work on plant pathogens and the role of gene clusters in natural product biosynthesis in plants.

“This is a great honour and very fulfilling,” she said. “I didn't start out aiming to get recognition of this kind, I've just followed what I feel is important and interesting and done things I believe in.

“That's sufficient for me in itself, but it's gratifying that my work has attracted the recognition of the Royal Society.”

Prof Osbourn said recent developments in her field made it an exciting “golden age of discovery” at the Norwich Research Park, which has become an important hub for interdisciplinary research.

“In the field of plant natural products this is a golden age for taking the dark matter of plant genomes and turning it into leads for new drugs and high value compounds for agriculture and industrial applications,” she said.

“But that is no good unless you can translate that into chemicals; and that is now possible because of the very rapid and powerful transient plant expression technology developed at the John Innes Centre which enables production of high purity, gram scale amounts of chemicals.”

READ MORE: Norwich crop scientists celebrate 'speed-cloning' breakthrough

Meanwhile, Prof Corinne Le Quéré, professor of climate change science at the UEA, was one of just four UK scientists to be awarded the Royal Society Research Professorship this year.

The award recognises internationally-renowned scientists from diverse areas including biochemistry, genetics, mathematics, chemistry, developmental biology and physics, and allows them to spend more time on researching their area of specialism.

Prof Le Quéré, who was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2016, was awarded the professorship for her work on the interactions between climate change and the carbon cycle, and she plans to use the award to increase our understanding of the ocean's role in absorbing carbon, and how this function will evolve in a warming climate.

“I am very excited to receive this professorship to further my research at the UEA, and I look forward to working on the fundamental advances in carbon modelling that are needed to improve understanding of the Earth's carbon balance in a changing climate,” she said.

The Fellowship of the Royal Society is made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists working in the UK and Commonwealth. Past Fellows and Foreign Members have included Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking.

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