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Biosciences Professor wins prestigious UK innovation award

30 March 2012

Biosciences Professor wins prestigious UK innovation award WebProfessor Jim Murray (centre) picks up his Commercial Innovator Award from Vince Cable and Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director of Innovation and Skills.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has presented Professor Jim Murray of the School of Biosciences with a Research Council’s Commercial Innovator of the Year Award.

Professor Murray won the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) award for his contribution to inventing a fast and easy-to-use method to detect DNA with light. This technology could have many important uses, including sensitive tests for infectious organisms that could lead to dramatic improvements to healthcare in both the developed and developing world.

The technology, called the "bioluminescent assay in real-time", signals the presence of specific DNA sequences, using a version of the enzyme luciferase, which also produces light in fireflies. This test is so simple it can potentially be used anywhere and can give results within minutes, depending on the number of bacteria or viruses being tested for.

Presenting the BBSRC awards at the ceremony at London’s Institute of Civil Engineers, Dr Cable said: "I would like to congratulate the winners on their success. The UK is a world leader in the biosciences and it is vital that we capitalise on this strength to deliver the maximum social and economic benefit. All of the finalists have gone to impressive lengths to ensure that the impacts of their research are felt well beyond the scientific community and this is truly worth celebrating."

Professor Murray said: "I am delighted to have won this award, ahead of some tough competition, reflecting the real potential that this technology offers. One of the most exciting possibilities is what it could offer to improve healthcare in the developing world. Although there are millions of people infected with HIV, there are only a small number of labs able to do accurate molecular tests in southern Africa, and cheap and convenient testing is desperately needed. We are hoping this technology could be developed to offer a quicker and more widely available means of testing, which is vital to monitor the disease."

BBSRC Director of Innovation and Skills, Dr Celia Caulcott said: "This is the age of bioscience, with techniques and technologies advancing at an exciting pace. Today’s innovations highlight the impact of this potential and the enormous possibilities from bioscience."

Also speaking at the ceremony was Jeremy Webb, Editor-in-Chief of New Scientist, who said: "I don’t think I’ve come across a better collection of ideas in all my travels with New Scientist over the past 20 years."

Professor Ole Petersen FRS, Director of the School of Biosciences, said: "This is a highly prestigious award and Jim is to be warmly congratulated for his contribution. As the Business Secretary said at the awards, it is vitally important that the UK’s bioscientific strengths deliver the maximum social and economic benefits."

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