ENP Newswire - 01 September 2014
Release date- 29082014 - Professor Dek Woolfson in the School of Chemistry is one of 14 new Wolfson Research Merit Award holders announced today by the Royal Society, the UK's national academy of science.
Professor Woolfson received the award for his research project, 'De novo protein structures: fundamentals, designs and applications'. This aims to make entirely new protein molecules from scratch, and to apply these in synthetic biology and medicine. Protein molecules are long polymers of amino acids that fold up to form intricate 3D structures. It is these structures that are responsible for the wide-ranging functions of proteins in biology. Professor Woolfson's rationale for designing new proteins is that it provides the ultimate test of how natural proteins fold up, assemble and function: if we can't build proteins from first principles, we can't really say that we understand them.
Over the next five years, Professor Woolfson's research group plans to design protein structures that should be possible theoretically, but have not been observed in nature. These include barrel-like structures with channels running through them, and nanoscale cages comprising many thousands of small protein chains that co-assemble spontaneously. Possible applications for these new molecules include the synthesis of proteins that can pass signals across membranes, the development of new vaccines, and the delivery of therapeutics to cells.
Jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the award scheme aims to provide universities with additional support to enable them to attract science talent from overseas and retain respected UK scientists of outstanding achievement and potential.
The Wolfson Foundation is a grant-making charity established in 1955. Funding is given to support excellence.
The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world's most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. Its purpose is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.