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20 June 2011
Nearly 40 years of researching bioluminescence, which has generated £20m for the Welsh economy, has brought Professor Tony Campbell a 2011 Inspire Wales Award.
The Awards are run by Institute of Welsh Affairs and the Western Mail to celebrate figures who encourage active citizenship in Wales and promote their communities. Professor Campbell, of the Welsh School of Pharmacy, won this year’s Science and Technology Award.
Professor Campbell, who previously worked at the School of Medicine for 40 years, was told by the judging panel they had been "inspired" by his story. His award recognises a wide range of contributions. He pioneered the use of bioluminescence, particularly DNA from luminous jellyfish and glowworms, to measure and image chemical processes in live cells. This technology, developed with colleagues at Cardiff, is now widely used throughout the world in biomedical research and drug discovery. It is used in several hundred million clinical tests a year and has also generated substantial income for the University and for Wales, winning a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 1998. In 2006, the Euraka project of Universities UK selected it as one of the top 100 inventions and discoveries from British Universities in the past 50 years.
The award also reflected Professor Campbell’s work in engaging the public with science. The Public Understanding of Science in Health (PUSH) group, which he founded at the University in 1994, now runs lectures, research schemes and other events throughout the year. These include the Science in Health Open Day, which regularly involves more than 550 students and teachers.
A great advocate of the public understanding of Charles Darwin, Professor Campbell founded the Darwin Centre for Biology and Medicine in Pembroke in 1993. The Centre is now a leading focus for outreach and public engagement in Wales, organising more than 150 events every year. In 2009, the centenary of Darwin’s birth, Professor Campbell gave 35 lectures about the great scientist, including in Singapore and Thailand.
After receiving his Inspire Wales Award at Cardiff’s City Hall, Professor Campbell said: "All those years ago people were asking, ‘What’s that crazy guy investigating luminescence for – what use could it be?’ Well, now they know!
"It’s a real honour to receive this Award. I promise I will continue to be ‘the curious Professor’ and promote the excitement of science in Wales. I want to excite young people’s curiosity, to stimulate and investigate – to take them out of the classroom and into the field, bringing back new discoveries, questions and insights."
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