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3 May, 2013 - 12:40 By Tony Quested

Genetic scientists honoured by Royal Society

Professors Mervyn Bibb and Mike Bevan

Two scientists from the John Innes Centre in Norwich have been elected Fellows of the Royal Society, the premier scientific accolade in the UK.

Their breakthroughs in fundamental research have pioneered advances in antibiotic discovery and in crop improvement.

Professor Mike Bevan pioneered methods for expressing foreign genes in plants that underpin the crop biotechnology industry. He instigated plant genome sequence analyses and has recently completed the first draft of the wheat genome. This work will accelerate breeding and genetic analysis of this globally important crop.

Professor Mervyn Bibb’s research focus is on how soil bacteria such as Streptomyces make antibiotics. Nearly 80 per cent of clinically used antibiotics are derived from these microorganisms.

His breakthroughs assist drug companies in their quest to make new and improved antibiotics. A spin-out company based on his work has an antibiotic about to enter phase 2 clinical trials.

Professor Dale Sanders, director of the John Innes Centre, said: “Although their research fields are seemingly disparate, Mike and Merv have both demonstrated the power that genetics can bring to a fundamental understanding of life.

“This research will set the stage for genetically-based translational advances that address national and global issues in the areas of food security and human health.”

Dr Phill Hawkins, a group leader in signalling at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, has been elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. A leading authority on biochemical signalling pathways, Dr Hawkins studies how cells respond to signals and communicate with each other to ensure the healthy development of an individual.

His research has given profound insight into understanding the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway, which is fundamental to a great diversity of activities inside cells, such as cell growth, metabolism, movement, hormone action and the generation of immune responses.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Professors Mervyn Bibb and Mike Bevan

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