It has just been announced that Professor John Ellis FRS, from the University of Warwick, has won the 2004 Gairdner Foundation International Award for world-class achievements in the field of medical research. The "Gairdners" are one of the most prestigious awards in all of medical science, and recognise outstanding contributions by scientists whose work will significantly improve the quality of human life.
John Ellis, who is now an Emeritus Professor, was a founder-member of Biological Sciences at Warwick, and has worked there for over 30 years. His work initially focussed on how the proteins essential for photosynthesis in plants are synthesised and then transported within plants. This work led him, from the mid-1980s onwards, to develop more general ideas about how newly-formed proteins are treated by cells to ensure that they fold up and find the appropriate partner proteins with which they function.
His contributions were crucial to the development of a new picture for this process, involving the action of specialised proteins as 'molecular chaperones' overseeing the interactions of other proteins. Professor Ellis was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1983.
This year, the Gairdner recognises the complementary contributions made by 3 researchers, including Professor Ellis, to the establishment of a new scientific model that is already impacting on medicine where a host of conditions from cystic fibrosis to Alzheimer's disease are now recognised as 'protein folding disorders'.
In addition to a prize of 30,000 Canadian dollars to individual winners, this award is often a prelude to the Nobel Prize. Professor Ellis joins a small and distinguished group of Gairdner Award holders. Of the 268 International Awardees, 61 individuals have gone on to win a Nobel Prize.
Each year 3-5 biomedical scientists are honoured, but the number of UK-based winners is very small. Over the past 25 years, only 8 UK-based scientists have received the Gairdner and 6 of those went on to receive a Nobel Prize.
Professor John Ellis, from the department of Biological Sciences at the University of Warwick, said: "I am surprised and delighted for my research to be honoured in this way."
The 2004 Gairdner award honours scientists who have revolutionised our understanding about basic cellular functions. The resulting human benefits in terms of alleviating disease will be enormous.
Professor John Ellis will receive the award at a conference in Toronto, Canada, in October when Gairdner winners past and present reveal the results of their latest work.
For more information contact: Jenny Murray, Communications Office, University of Warwick, Tel: 02476 574 255, Mobile: 07876 21 7740