Birkbeck Fellow awarded Ewald Prize

The Prize is perhaps the most prestigious available in the field of crystallography, given to Sir Tom Blundell in recognition of his worldwide leadership in crystallographic innovation.

Sir Tom Blundell FRS, Birkbeck Fellow and former Head of the Department of Crystallography, has received the acclaimed Ewald Prize. The presentation of the prize was made during the Opening Ceremony of the International Congresses of Crystallography in Hyderabad on 21 August 2017.

The Ewald Prize is perhaps the most prestigious available in the field of Crystallography, only given once every three years for outstanding contributions to the discipline. It is named after the late Professor Paul Peter Ewald, in recognition of his significant contributions to the foundations of crystallography and to the founding of the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr).

The prize was given to Blundell in recognition of his worldwide leadership in crystallographic innovation, especially at the interface with life sciences. He is perhaps most well-known for his part in determining the structure of insulin with Dorothy Hodgkin and for co-founding Astex, a biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of drugs in oncology.

A statement from the IUCr, which issues the prize, praised Blundell’s “exceptionally broad array of medically critical human protein structures, championing methods enabling drug design and discovery through structural optimization, crystallographic fragment screening, and computational modelling. [He is] a leader in advanced crystallographic education internationally.”

Blundell said: “It is a great honour to receive the Ewald Prize.  Many of the ideas on the use of crystallography in making new medicines, including new agents to lower blood pressure and combating HIV, were developed during my time at Birkbeck between 1976 and 1996. 

“These early examples of structure-guided drug discovery eventually evolved to fragment-based screening and the founding of Astex with ex-Birkbeck student Dr Harren Jhoti in 1999.  Astex has now obtained FDA approval for a new breast cancer drug this year.  My days at Birkbeck were central to my science, new medicines and the prize!”

The Prize consists of a medal, a certificate and an award of $30,000.

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