Two University of Leicester scientists receive prestigious honour

Posted by pt91 at Sep 02, 2013 03:20 PM |
Royal Society announces new round of esteemed Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 2 September 2013

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University of Leicester scientists undertaking cutting edge research have been recognised by the Royal Society.

The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, has announced the appointment of 22 new Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award holders. Among this year’s recipients are Professor John Schwabe and Professor Jim Hinton from the University of Leicester.

Jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the scheme aims to provide universities with additional support to enable them to attract science talent from overseas and retain respected UK scientists of outstanding achievement and potential. Five of the awardees will be moving to the UK from universities overseas, including Dr Bruce Lipschultz who will be moving from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to take up his award position at the University of York and Professor John Wettlaufer who is moving from Yale University to the University of Oxford.

The newly appointed award holders are working on a wide range of project topics including 4D computer vision, plasma physics for the development of fusion energy, and new targets for drugs and vaccines against parasitic infections.

Research by Professor John Schwabe, Head of the University’s Department of Biochemistry, will use X-rays to determine the structures of enzymes called histone deacetylases and their complexes. These enzymes play an important role in regulating gene expression and are inhibited in certain cancer treatments. Professor Schwabe aims to gain a better understanding how of genes are regulated, to help in the development of treatments that change patterns of gene expression.

Professor Schwabe said: "I am delighted to receive this award that both recognises both the past achievements of my research team and the promise of future important discoveries.

“We have recently solved structures of two of these histone deacetylase complexes and made a remarkable discovery that these complexes are regulated by a small molecule called inositol tetraphosphate. This was a complete surprise to us and other researchers in the field.

“This finding is important because it opens a completely new way to target these complexes by blocking the ability of inositol phosphate to serve as activators. Thus ultimately our studies will allow us to devise new drugs that will target these complexes and be useful in the treatment of human diseases.”

Professor Jim Hinton, of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, will be continuing his work on very high energy gamma-ray astrophysics. In particular, he will be examining teraelectronvolt photons, a particle a billion times more energetic than X-rays and which provide astronomers with a probe of the high energy universe and in particular with information on the acceleration and propagation of ultra-relativistic particles - an important constituent of our own and other galaxies.

Professor Hinton is currently involved in building a prototype camera called the Compact High Energy Camera (CHEC) for the planned Cherenkov Telescope Array: the next generation ground-based very high energy gamma-ray observatory.

Professor Hinton said: “I am very honoured to receive this award from the Royal Society.”

The Wolfson Foundation is a grant-making charity established in 1955. Funding is given to support excellence. More information is available from



For further information contact:

Chloe McIvor

Press and Public Relations

The Royal Society, London

Tel: 020 7451 2514


The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose, as it has been since its foundation in 1660, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

The Society’s strategic priorities emphasise its commitment to the highest quality science, to curiosity-driven research, and to the development and use of science for the benefit of society. These priorities are:

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2.       Recognising excellence in science

3.       Supporting outstanding science

4.       Providing scientific advice for policy

5.       Fostering international and global cooperation

6.       Education and public engagement

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