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Professor Andrew Lawrence named Finalist in prestigious UK Blavatnik Awards

School of Chemistry researcher becomes the second academic from School of Chemistry to be named finalist in two years.
The Blavatnik Award finalists

Professor Andrew Lawrence from the School of Chemistry has been announced as a finalist in the UK Blavatnik Awards 2023. This adds to his impressive accolades including being awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Grant in 2021, an EPSRC New Horizons Grant in 2020 and the BMOS-RSC Young Investigator Distinction Award in 2018. This is the second year in a row that a School of Chemistry researcher has been named a finalist, following Professor Stephen Thomas in 2022.

The Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists UK is a highly prestigious national prize celebrating the accomplishments and future potential of the UK’s most innovative young academic staff, scientists and engineers working across Life Sciences, Physical Sciences & Engineering, and Chemistry. 

The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences, now in its sixth year, are the largest unrestricted prize available to UK scientists aged 42 or younger. Internationally recognised among the scientific community, the Blavatnik Awards are instrumental in expanding the engagement and recognition of young scientists, and are providing the support and encouragement needed to drive scientific innovation for the next generation.

I am extremely proud and happy for Professor Andy Lawrence being named a Finalist for the Blavatnik Awards 2023.The fact that this is the second year in a row that one of our talented researchers at the School of Chemistry has been named a Finalist for this prestigious award is a fantastic reflection of the strength of chemistry research at Edinburgh. We are delighted to continue supporting Andy and to see how this accolade will help him elevate his research to an even higher level.

Professor Jason Love, Head of the School of Chemistry

I am absolutely delighted to be named as a Finalist. It is a great honour and a fantastic recognition of the dedication, hard-work and creativity of all the incredible chemists that have worked in my group at Edinburgh.

Professor Andy Lawrence

Professor Lawrence was recognized for ‘Elegant and efficient total syntheses of naturally-occurring, bio-active molecules that hold promise for the development of treatments for various diseases.’

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Organic Chemistry, Total Synthesis, Synthetic Chemistry

Professor Lawrence’s Research Summary

Molecules produced by living organisms—plants, fungi, animals, bacteria—are often referred to by scientists as natural products. Chemists have long been interested in the study of natural products because of their useful medicinal properties. In the clinic, natural products have been used to treat everything from bacterial infections to late-stage cancers. Some, like morphine and penicillin, can be made commercially directly from the cultivation and processing of plants and fungi, respectively. However, other natural products are very difficult to isolate from natural sources and must be synthesized in the laboratory. 

Professor Lawrence has dramatically improved the way in which natural products are synthesized in the laboratory by developing extremely efficient synthetic strategies that mimic the way living organisms produce these highly complex structures. Focusing on synthetic efficiency—defined here as the fewest number of synthetic steps necessary to synthesize a natural product—provides major advantages to chemists: it allows for more of the compound to be produced, it saves time and energy, and it provides flexibility for the study of unnatural analogues—molecules that possess small structural changes that can lead to improved physiological effects. Lawrence is credited with the synthesis of over 20 natural products, including brevianamide A, the synthesis of which had eluded chemists for over fifty years. These state-of-the-art syntheses hold the potential to be utilized in the production and manufacturing of new drug candidates.

We are working to improve the science and art of synthetic chemistry by taking inspiration from the natural world. We develop syntheses of complex natural products that hold the potential to solve the major health challenges facing humanity.

Professor Lawrence

The LAwrence group

Further information on the Blavatnik Awards

This year’s Laureates, will each receive £100,000 in unrestricted funds, are: 

  • Susan Perkin, DPhil (Chemistry)—University of Oxford
  • Clare Burrage, PhD (Physical Sciences & Engineering)—University of Nottingham
  • Katie Doores, DPhil (Life Sciences)—King’s College London 

In each of the three categories—Chemistry, Physical Sciences & Engineering, and Life Sciences—a jury of leading scientists from across the UK also selected two Finalists, who will each receive £30,000. The 2023 Finalists are: 

  • Jesko Köhnke, PhD (Chemistry)—University of Glasgow
  • Andrew L. Lawrence, DPhil (Chemistry)—The University of Edinburgh
  • Jade Alglave, PhD (Physical Sciences & Engineering)—University College London (UCL) and ARM
  • James A. Screen, PhD (Physical Sciences & Engineering)—University of Exeter
  • Andrew Saxe, PhD (Life Sciences)—University College London (UCL)
  • Pontus Skoglund, PhD (Life Sciences)—The Francis Crick Institute

The honourees are recognised for their research, which is already transforming technology and our understanding of the world. 

I am proud to recognise and support these outstanding young scientists. Their pioneering research leads the way for future discoveries that will improve the world and benefit all humankind

Sir Leonard Blavatnik, Founder and Chairman of Access Industries and head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

The 2023 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the UK received 77 nominations from 43 academic and research institutions across the UK. The Blavatnik Awards in the UK sit alongside their global counterparts, the Blavatnik National Awards and the Blavatnik Regional Awards in the United States and the Blavatnik Awards in Israel, all of which honour and support exceptional early-career scientists. By the close of 2023, the Blavatnik Awards will have awarded prizes totalling US$15.4 million. About 60 percent of all recipients are immigrants to the country in which they were recognised; honourees hail from 52 countries across six continents, reflecting the Blavatnik Family Foundation’s recognition that important science is a global enterprise.

The 2023 Blavatnik Awards in the UK Laureates and Finalists will be honoured at a black-tie gala dinner and award ceremony at Banqueting House in Whitehall, London, on 28th February 2023; Professor Irene Tracey, the incoming Vice-Chancellor at the University of Oxford, will serve as ceremony presenter. The following day, on 1st March 2023 from 11:00 to 18:00 GMT, the honourees will present their research with a series of short, interactive lectures at a free public symposium at the RSA House located at 8 John Adam St, London. To attend the symposium, click HERE to register.

More Information

To follow the progress of the Blavatnik Awards, please visit the Awards’ website (www.blavatnikawards.org) or follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@BlavatnikAwards).  

 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023