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University of York chemist takes carbohydrate blue riband


A University of York scientist has won the world’s most prestigious award for the excellence of his research into carbohydrates.

The International Carbohydrate Organization is to present the Roy L Whistler International Award for 2006 to Professor Gideon Davies, of the University’s Department of Chemistry.

Professor Davies is only the second UK-based scientist to win the award, which recognises scientists "who have made contributions of excellence in carbohydrate chemistry and biochemistry and with promise of continuing significant contributions." It was established in 1984 in honour of Professor Roy L.Whistler.

Professor Davies will receive the accolade at the XXIII International Carbohydrate Symposium at Whistler, British Columbia, Canada in July, next year, where he will present the opening lecture. His research centres on the study of the structure and mechanisms of action of enzymes that catalyse the synthesis and breakdown of carbohydrates. Many proteins only acquire their unique characteristics by working in conjunction with carbohydrates and an understanding of this relationship will be crucial in new advances in medicine.

Professor Davies currently has exciting on-going work on topics ranging from the bacteria that causes the "flesh-eating" disease necrotizing fasciitis to the enzymes responsible for the colour of red wine. Enzymes that break down carbohydrates are essential to digestion, but also, for instance, in biological washing powders and in environmentally friendly routes to waste product breakdown as an alternative to landfill and fossil fuels. Professor Davies, 41, who leads a ten-strong research group based in the University’s Structural Biology Laboratory said: "I knew I had been nominated for this award, but it was a huge surprise when I was told that I had actually won." He graduated in Biochemistry in 1985 at the University of Bristol, where he also studied for his PhD on the molecular biology, structure and mechanism of glycolytic enzymes. In 1990, he moved to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, and later joined the Department of Chemistry at York.

While working on ’carbohydrate-active’ enzymes at York, Professor Davies made extended study visits to work in France, Sweden and Canada, He took up a Royal Society University Research Fellowship at York in 1996. He was made a full professor of the University of York in 2001 and received a University of York ’Anniversary Chair’ in 2004. He is a double award winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

David Garner | alfa
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