On Thursday 21 February the Biochemical Society celebrated 50 years of the Colworth Medal with a lecture from the 2013 winner Robin May (University of Birmingham). The Colworth Medal is given to ‘an outstanding young British biochemist’ under the age of 36 and the list of past recipients reads as a who’s who of UK-based biochemical research.
The afternoon began with an introduction from John Casey on behalf of Unilever, who have supported the award since its inception in 1963. He spoke of ‘something almost magical about the medal’, a medal that makes you wonder ‘how someone so young can have done so much excellent science’.
Robin May was introduced by Society President Ron Laskey who told him not to be nervous as there were a lot of people in the room who had been in this exact position before, 34 of them to be exact, but perhaps without such a distinguished audience!
Robin started by thanking those he felt had inspired him – David Attenborough, Sarah Gurr and Laura Machesky. The later who gave him the sound advice when his experiment worked, to ‘celebrate…before you do any controls.’
The lecture focused on his groups work on host-pathogen interactions and in particular the extensive work undertaken on cryptococcosis. A disease that typically, although not exclusively, affects immunocompromised patients.
A key feature of this disease is that the infectious agent is not efficiently killed by phagocytic cells of the innate immune system. They therefore study the events that lead both to phagosomal persistence of this organism and, in some cases, to a novel escape process termed ‘vomocytosis’. A term which earned the peer review comment, ‘the phrase whilst undoubtedly catchy is etymologically deeply flawed.’
The lecture was rounded off with questions from Tim Hunt and Ron Laskey amongst others, which perhaps is the best peer review you can hope for.
The special edition programme book is available online and contains a history of the medal and interviews with past winners. Robin will deliver his Colworth Lecture again at the Unilever Research Laboratories at Colworth House in September 2013.
2012: Akhilesh Reddy 1986: Gregory P. Winter
2011: Sarah Teichmann 1985: Alec J. Jeffreys
2010: Mark Dillingham 1984: Miles D. Houslay
2009: Giles Hardingham 1983: E. Oldfield
2008: John Rouse 1982: David M.J. Lilley
2007: Frank Sargent 1981: T.H. Rabbitts
2006: Simon Boulton 1980: R.A. Flavell
2005: Ian Collinson 1979: Ronald A. Laskey
2004: James H. Naismith 1978: Timothy E. Hardingham
2003: David J. Owen 1977: Philip Cohen
2002: Thomas Owen-Hughes 1976: G.G. Brownlee
2001: Andrew D. Sharrocks 1975: W.J. Brammar
2000: Dario R. Alessi 1974: David R. Trentham
1999: Nigel S. Scrutton 1973: J.C. Metcalfe
1998: David Barford 1972: J.M. Ashworth
1997: Stephen P. Jackson 1971: A.R. Williamson
1996: Sheena Radford 1970: D.A. Rees
1995: Jonathon Pines 1969: George K. Radda
1994: R.L. Stephens 1968: P.B. Garland
1993: Nicholas C. Tonks 1967: L.J. Morris
1992: Angus I. Lamond 1966: M.H. Richmond
1991: Michael A.J. Ferguson 1965: J.B. Chappell
1990: David W. Melton 1964: Jamshed R. Tata
1988: Hugh R.B. Pelham 1963: Hans L. Kornberg
1987: C. Peter Downes