St Andrews scientists have won a prestigious national award for their discovery of a novel enzyme.
The group of Chemists from the University of St Andrews, led by Professor David O’Hagan, have won the Institute of Chemical Engineers ‘Judges Award’ 2002 for their discovery of the World’s first fluorinase enzyme.
Professor O’Hagan, a Professor of Organic Chemistry, made the finding with his research colleagues, Christoph Schaffrath, Dr Cormac Murphy and Steven Cobb at the University’s Centre for Biomolecular Sciences and John Hamilton and Professor David Harper at Queen’s University Belfast.
The enzyme, a biological catalyst which bonds carbon to fluorine, will be useful for creating compounds as diverse as Teflon and Prozac. The discovery was announced in the international journal, ‘Nature’, earlier this year.
The Institute of Chemical Engineers (also known as ‘IChemE’) is a highly-respected international body that provides services for and represents the interests of those involved in chemical, biochemical and process engineering world-wide.
The Judges Award is granted to a chemical discovery, which has particular promise for potential technological development. It is one of three major awards given to one of the short-listed teams deemed to be the best of the year against their criteria.
An IChemE spokesman said: “The entry from the University of St Andrews led team is a landmark discovery in catalysis. The discovery of the first biological process to make carbon-fluorine bonds marks a milestone in biology and potentially a very green contribution to industrial production.”
Fluorine-containing molecules are extremely important commercial entities and their significance continues to grow. Well-knowns compounds in this category include the non-stick polymer Teflon, the antidepressant Prozac and the cancer chemotherapy agent 5- fluorouracil.
Professor O’Hagan received the award on behalf of the research team at an awards ceremony in London last month. He was presented the award by Britain’s longest serving TV weather forecaster, Michael Fish, at a ceremony at the National Maritime Museum.
“I was delighted to accept this award on behalf of the team who were involved in the discovery and isolation of the fluorinase enzyme,” said Professor O’Hagan.
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