Named Innovator of the Year seeks to prevent vision loss worldwide
The inventor of a new tool that identifies people at risk of a leading cause of incurable blindness worldwide, affecting more than 600,000 people in the UK alone, has been named the BBSRC Innovator of the Year 2017.
Dr Shelby Temple accepted the prestigious award at a joyous night at Canary Wharf which saw a celebration of the UK’s best bio-scientists, whose research is leading to life-changing innovations throughout the world.
The event, now in its ninth year, highlighted the fantastic work of 12 finalists shortlisted from an array of entries, from across the UK, by an independent panel.
Finalists were nominated for awards in the categories of Commercial Impact, Social Impact, International Impact, and Early Career Impact, with each winner to be presented with £10,000 to help towards future research projects, and the Overall Winner – Innovator of the Year – to receive a further £10,000.
“The Innovator of the year competition recognises the significant impacts of bioscience research and the difference the innovative solutions make in the world,” said Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC Chief Executive. “I’m honoured to be surrounded by such pioneering individuals and teams who continue to push the boundaries of bioscience. Congratulations to all named winners of the Innovator of the Year competition.”
After receiving the Commercial Impact category award, Dr Temple was then announced as the Innovator of the Year for his work in tackling age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of incurable blindness in developed countries, which is expected to affect an estimated 196 million people globally by 2020.
Studying the eyes of octopuses, cuttlefishes, and fishes, led Dr Temple to invent a unique tool to examine how eyes perceive polarised light. By adapting the approach for humans, the University of Bristol academic created a fast, simple and affordable way to assess macular pigments, low levels of which area a risk factor for AMD. The device is scheduled to be ready within a year.
Commenting on his success, Dr Temple, from the School of Biological Sciences at Bristol, said: “I was overwhelmed with excitement and pride that all the hard work had led to this fantastic recognition, but I also felt bashful because there were so many great and deserving projects.”
In addition to helping to solve the international AMD crisis, another award recipient’s research was equally global in its thinking. Professor Juliet Osborne and team received the Social Impact award for the study in helping build pollinator resilience through informed land management and beekeeping,
“Whilst it was my name that was called, it is a team win. I am really proud of my colleagues – Dr Matthias Becher, Dr Grace Twiston-Davies and Prof Volker Grimm – who have worked with me,” said Professor Osborne from the University of Exeter. “It is really important that the research we do is applicable and useful to a wide range of users.”
This year’s awards were the first to specifically recognise the ‘International Impact’ of BBSRC-funded projects. The category highlighted those researchers and teams who have driven impact in an international context and addressed overseas development aid goals.
The winner of the prize was Professor Sarah Cleaveland whose research has informed the development of new strategies to control livestock diseases in Tanzania, including foot-and-mouth and malignant catarrhal fever.
“We were genuinely stunned, but also thrilled to hear we had won the International Impact Award. The achievement reflects the work of a fantastic team of researchers from the University of Glasgow and Tanzanian institutions, alongside the other UK and international partners,” said Professor Cleaveland.
Another new prize for this year’s competition was the Early Career Impact category, which celebrated early career researchers who have driven impact in a commercial, social or international context in the six years beyond their PhD or prior to securing a permanent research position.
The winner was Dr James Field who co-invented a directed evolution technology for the development of new materials.
A “delighted and immensely humbled”, Dr Field, who represents LabGenius, said: “I have spent several years leading a group of truly talented scientists in the development of a highly disruptive gene synthesis technology and being recognised is a real credit to the team’s hard work.”
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Innovator of the Year 2017
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £473 million in world-class bioscience, people and research infrastructure in 2015-16. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.