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Award-winning BBSRC fellow follows in footsteps of doyen of UK structural biology

The first ever BBSRC Diamond Professorial Fellow, Professor So Iwata, has been awarded the 2009 Aminoff Prize by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for his work in the field of crystallography.

The winner in 1991 was the late Professor David Phillips, after whom another of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)'s fellowships is named. Professor Iwata, an Imperial College London life scientist, said: ‘I am truly honoured to receive this prize, and to share such an accolade with Professor Phillips is humbling, indeed.’

This international award recognizes Professor Iwata's ‘seminal crystallographic studies of membrane proteins’. He uses state-of-the-art crystallographic methods and has been successful in elucidating important biological functions in vital systems such as cellular respiration, photosynthesis and molecular transport. It is molecular transport that forms the basis of Professor Iwata's BBSRC fellowship. He is currently using his fellowship to use the facilities at Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire in his studies of human cell membrane transporters, which are proteins of great importance to medicine and pharmacology.

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: ‘We would like to congratulate Professor Iwata on his well-deserved success. The proteins that he studies are some of the most important in our quest to understand human health. With this sort of excellent fundamental research the potential to uncover important pharmacological targets for the future is high. It is very pleasing indeed to see such research recognised as important and valuable, as Professor David Phillips’ work was recognised with the same prize in 1991. Professor Phillips’ work on the mechanism of enzyme catalysis and his efforts to bring structural biology to the forefront of research has underpinned many, many important discoveries and developments in biotechnology and medicine and we are delighted to see Professor Iwata's contribution to the field being similarly recognised for its importance and impact.’

A feature article and short film about Professor Iwata's BBSRC-funded work can be viewed at the ‘Our science explained’ section of the BBSRC website.

The Prize will be awarded at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' Annual meeting on 31 March 2010.

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