Alum Leigh-Anne Ihnken part of team awarded Royal Society of Chemistry Horizon prize


A team of scientists, including UIUC chemistry alum Leigh-Anne (Furgerson) Ihnken (PhD, ’09, van der Donk), has been awarded a Royal Society of Chemistry Horizon Prize: Rita and John Cornforth Award for developing a new, more sustainable way of developing medicines.

Ihnken is a Medicine and Process Delivery Leader in synthetic biochemistry at GSK, a science-led global healthcare company with three global businesses that research, develop and manufacture innovative pharmaceutical medicines, vaccines and consumer healthcare products.

In addition to GSK, the prize-winning team also included individuals at the University of York, the University of Manchester, and SME biotechnology company Prozomix.

From the RSC announcement:

“The new technology is very timely, as the global pharmaceutical industry looks to employ manufacturing processes that are sustainable. These medicines must also be produced in highly pure form for use in patients. One such approach employs enzymes or biocatalysts which are safe, highly selective and produce minimal waste.

The collaboration began with the discovery and characterization of a new type of biocatalyst by the scientific research teams at the University of Manchester and the University of York. Subsequent to their discovery, scientists at GSK spotted an opportunity to apply these new biocatalysts for a more efficient industrial process to manufacture a medicine in its oncology portfolio.

The demonstration highlights how the technology can be broadly used across drug development and represents an efficient and sustainable way to produce many lifesaving medicines. These new biocatalysts are now available from Prozomix Ltd for other groups to evaluate.”


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