Oxford scientists honoured with four Royal Society Awards

Thursday 24th Aug 2023, 12.41pm

Professor Hagan Bayley FRS receives the Buchanan Medal for founding Oxford Nanopore Technology, the highly successful biotech company.

Professor Artur Ekert FRS receives the Royal Society Milner Award and Lecture for his pioneering contributions to quantum communication and computation.

Sir Antony Hoare FREng FRS receives the Royal Medal (Physical) for ground-breaking contributions that have revolutionised the computer programming field, including the development of “Hoare logic.”

Professor Herman Waldmann FMedSci FRS receives the Royal Medal (Biological) for pioneering monoclonal antibodies for human therapy.

Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society said, ‘On behalf of the Royal Society, I offer my congratulations to all the 2023 recipients of Medals and Awards. The breadth and scope of scientific knowledge and experience reflected in this year’s nominations is nothing short of phenomenal. I am very proud to celebrate such outstanding scientific contributions from so many different specialisms around the world.’

More about the medal winners:

Hagan Bayley is the Professor of Chemical Biology in the Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford.
Awarded: Buchanan Medal

I am delighted to be recognised for the founding of Oxford Nanopore, the company that has developed a means to sequence DNA and RNA with an inexpensive portable device providing exceedingly long reads. Work on nanopore sensing and sequencing was initiated by highly talented members of my academic laboratory and brought to fruition by the formidable team at Oxford Nanopore.

Professor Hagan Bayley

Professor Bayley’s award recognises his role in founding the successful biotech company Oxford Nanopore Technologies. This was a spinout from his fundamental research into the assembly and function of bacterial pore-forming proteins in mammalian cell membranes. Recognising the potential applications for biotechnology, Professor Bayley and his team engineered pores capable of interacting with molecules of interest, ranging from small organic molecules to polymers of enormous length. In this way, they developed a method to identify and sequence molecules as they passed through the pore by measuring changes in an electrical current driven by a voltage applied across the nanopore.

In 2005, Professor Bayley founded Oxford Nanopore Technologies to develop a nanopore sensing platform. The company furthered the technology by building powerful portable nanopore-based devices for DNA and RNA sequencing. Oxford Nanopore devices have since revolutionised fundamental and clinical genomics and played a critical role in research across cancer, human genetics, and infectious diseases. Professor Bayley continues to conduct fundamental research into nanopore technologies, with current interests including protein variant characterisation; understanding the making and breaking of individual chemical bonds; and building synthetic tissues in which nanopores allow the compartments to communicate with each other and the external environment.

Read more about Professor Bayley’s work here.

Artur Ekert is a Professor of quantum information science in the Mathematical Institute.
Awarded: Milner Award

Unearthing the connections between cryptography and the foundations of quantum theory has been a captivating journey and it is very gratifying to have my work recognised. Quantum theory has undeniably unlocked numerous novel ways to understand and harness nature, including information, and I am excited to see what developments unfold over the near future.

Professor Artur Ekert

Professor Artur Ekert is a pioneer in the field of quantum information science, and has played a leading role in transforming what was a relatively obscure area of study into a vibrant, interdisciplinary field of research. For instance, his invention of entanglement-based quantum cryptography forged the first connections between the foundations of quantum physics and secure communication. This led to a surge in research activity worldwide, and it continues to inspire new research directions.

In addition to his celebrated discovery that Bell’s inequalities can be used for eavesdropping detection, Professor Ekert has made numerous significant contributions to the theoretical basis and practical realisation of quantum communication and computation. These include research on the universality of quantum logic gates, developing the first methods for stabilising and protecting quantum operations, elucidating the unifying structure of quantum algorithms, and proposing one of the first practical designs for quantum computation.

Read more about Professor Ekert’s work here.

Sir Antony Hoare is an Emeritus Professor at the Department of Computer Science.
Awarded: Royal Medal (Physical)

Throughout his career, Sir Antony Hoare has made fundamental contributions to the definition and design of programming languages. His achievements include developing one of the world’s most popular sorting algorithms, Quicksort; introducing ‘Hoare logic’, which allows software engineers to check that a program behaves as intended; and developing the formal language communicating sequential processes (CSP) to specify the interactions of concurrent processes.

Between 1977 and 1999, Sir Antony was a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Oxford. During this time, he built up the Programming Research Group and founded the first computer science undergraduate degrees. On retiring from academia at Oxford, Sir Antony joined Microsoft Research as a principal researcher. His later interests included unifying the wide range of theories relating to different programming languages.

Amongst his numerous awards, Sir Antony was winner of the 1980 Turing Award, the highest honour in computer science. He was knighted in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to education and computer science.

Read more about Sir Antony’s work here.

Herman Waldmann is Emeritus Professor of Pathology at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology.
Awarded: Royal Medal (Biological)

This is a wonderful recognition of an exciting journey begun 40 years ago together with Geoff Hale, Stephen Cobbold, Mike Clark, and Mark Frewin who provided a foundation that drew many collaborating scientists and physicians to come and work with us.

Professor Herman Waldmann

Professor Waldmann researches how cells of the immune system interact to mount immune responses, and how this can be regulated for therapeutic purposes. In the 1980s, he conducted the first studies to show that short courses of CD4 antibodies could induce long-term immunological tolerance to foreign proteins. This led to the first demonstration of transplant acceptance resulting from short-term antibody therapy.

Since then, his work has focused on developing therapeutic monoclonal antibodies, particularly to control autoimmune responses. At Oxford, he and Professor Geoffrey Hale were the first to develop a licensed academic manufacturing facility for clinical-grade antibodies for therapeutic studies. Many of these have since been transferred to the pharmaceutical industry, including Campath-1, now licensed as Lemtrada for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.

Since 1971, Professor Waldmann has authored more than 550 publications, mostly on therapeutic antibodies and their mechanisms of action.

The full list of medals and awards, including their description and past winners can be found on the Royal Society website.