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University of Warwick Professor awarded Royal Society’s Davy Medal for pioneering research into ‘Metals in Medicine’

  • Professor Sadler is this year’s recipient of the Royal Society’s Davy Medal.
  • Recognises his work in using inorganic metals in medicine, pioneering the research field of medicinal inorganic chemistry.
  • Research includes targeting cancer cells with the metal iridium – thought to have arrived on Earth via the asteroid that caused the dinosaurs’ extinction.

Research into using inorganic metals for medical applications has been recognised by a prestigious award from the Royal Society.

Professor Peter Sadler has been announced as the recipient of the Davy Medal, for pioneering the research field of medicinal inorganic chemistry, ‘Metals in Medicine’, and the design of new metallodrugs with novel mechanisms of action.

Professor Sadler’s team are designing novel metallodrugs with new mechanisms of action to combat resistance to current anticancer and antimicrobial drugs. They use visible light to activate precious metal pro-drugs specifically in tumours, minimising effects on normal tissues, and synthetic organometallic catalysts (containing metal-carbon bonds) which can mimic natural enzymes and carry out unusual transformations in cells at low doses.

Among their accomplishments is demonstrating that cancer cells can be targeted and destroyed with iridium, a metal from the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Professor Sadler is also exploring the new area of metal neurochemistry, especially nanometallic deposits on iron and copper in the brain, and metal coordination chemistry at the single atom level.

Professor Sadler of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick said: “I feel elated on behalf of all the graduate research students, post-docs, visiting fellows and collaborators for who have contributed so much to my research over my 23 years at Birkbeck College, 11 years at the University of Edinburgh, and the last 15 years at the University of Warwick.

“It has never been easy to establish that inorganic chemistry is of central importance to biology and medicine. Through the ability of my talented co-workers, we have overcome some of the challenges, and made exciting research discoveries that have stimulated worldwide interest in the field of medicinal inorganic chemistry.

“I hope that this award will greatly increase the credibility of medicinal inorganic chemistry and promote the status of bioinorganic chemistry not only in research, but also in teaching. Importantly it will further encourage me to promote knowledge of the medical periodic table amongst young scientists - from primary school upwards!”

 Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society said, “On behalf of the Royal Society, I offer my congratulations to the outstanding researchers, individuals and teams whose contributions to our collective scientific endeavour have helped further our understanding of the world around us.

“Science has always been a team game, and I’m proud to see such a wide array of skills and specialisms reflected in this year’s medals and awards.

“From the original ideas that open up new fields, to the team effort that delivered the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, or the vital work of technicians and those opening doors for the next generation of talented researchers – I am proud that we can celebrate outstanding scientific contributions in all their forms.”

Awards from the Royal Society, also include the Copley Medal for researchers, technicians, students and support staff responsible for the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine. This is the first time in the nearly 300-year history that it has been awarded to a team.

About Professor Peter Sadler:

Professor Peter Sadler obtained his BA, MA and DPhil at the University of Oxford, and went on to work at the University of Cambridge, the National Institute of Medical Research, Birkbeck College (University of London) and the University of Edinburgh. He was also Director of the Edinburgh Protein Interaction Centre and EastChem Cancer Research UK Medicinal Chemistry Centre. In June 2007, he took up a Chair in Chemistry at the University of Warwick as Head of Department, where he is now a Professor.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the Royal Society of London, and an EPSRC RISE Fellow (Recognising Inspirational Scientists and Engineers). He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Chemical Research Society of India, an Honorary Fellow of the Chinese Chemical Society, and a Fellow of the European Academy of Sciences.

The full list of medals and awards, including their description and past winners can be found on the Royal Society website:

Professor Sadler of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick, standing next to his home-built periodic table.


Notes to editors:

Picture caption: Professor Sadler of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick, standing next to his home-built periodic table.

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Simmie Korotane: Media Relations | Press & Media Relations | University of Warwick