Babraham scientist receives accolade from the Biochemical Society

Babraham scientist receives accolade from the Biochemical Society

Professor Sir Michael Berridge, FRS, Emeritus Fellow at the Babraham Institute, has been awarded the prestigious Biochemical Society Award for 2011 for his pioneering work in the field of cell signalling. Awarded biennially, the 2011 award recognises, “candidates whose research has had a transformative effect on biochemical research”. Professor Berridge’s discovery of the central role that the molecule inositol trisphosphate, better known as IP3, plays in the calcium signalling pathway was a major breakthrough in understanding how cells communicate with each other. These chemical messengers translate chemical stimuli, such as hormones, at the cell’s external surface into a cascade of biochemical activity inside the cell that enables the cell to respond.

This breakthrough has had a profound influence on diverse areas of biomedical research such as cell proliferation, fertilisation, neural activity, memory and learning, metabolism and muscle contraction. It has also paved the way for research programmes at the Babraham Institute, an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), which have given insight into conditions like hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia and heart failure, cancer and bipolar disorders.

Today research in this field is bringing new understanding of a wide range of medical disorders and with it the potential to develop ever more sophisticated therapeutic strategies for the prevention and management of disease. The Director of the Babraham Institute, Professor Michael Wakelam, said, “We are delighted that the Biochemical Society has honoured Professor Berridge with this prestigious prize, which recognises the fundamental studies performed by Mike and his colleagues.”

Professor Berridge’s ground-breaking research and leadership in the field have earned him a plethora of prestigious international awards, including: the Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics; the Gairdner Foundation International Award for outstanding achievement in biomedical research; the King Faisal International Prize in Science; The Wolf Foundation Prize in Medicine; the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award; and the Louis Jeantet Prize in Medicine. In 2005 Professor Berridge was awarded the prestigious Shaw Prize, hailed as the Nobel Prize of the East, for his pioneering work in cell signalling.

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Notes to Editors:

About the Babraham Institute:
The Babraham Institute undertakes world-class life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Our research focuses on cellular signalling, gene regulation and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing. The Institute is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, through an Institute Core Capability Grant and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, health and well-being and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.


Biographical Note:
Sir Michael Berridge, FRS, (b.1938) is an Emeritus Fellow at the Babraham Institute and Honorary Professor of Cell Signalling at the University of Cambridge. Graduating from the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Rhodesia in 1960 with First Class Honours, he attained his PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK, in 1965. He then carried out post-doctoral research in the USA (University of Virginia and Case Western Reserve University) before returning to Cambridge in 1969 to take up a position with the Agricultural and Food Research Council’s (AFRC) Unit of Invertebrate Chemistry and Physiology, based in the University’s Zoology Department.

After a long professional association with the Babraham Institute he formerly joined the Laboratory of Molecular Signalling at the Babraham Institute in 1990. He is a fellow of Trinity College and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1984. He is also a member of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences (1999). In 2005 Professor Berridge was awarded the prestigious Shaw Prize, for his pioneering work in the field of cell signalling. Hailed as the Nobel Prize of the East, this international accolade consists of three annual prizes of $1 million US dollars in the fields of life science and medicine, astronomy and mathematical sciences.

Additional information:
Cellular communication takes place through chemical signals such as hormones, neurotransmitters and nitric oxide, however these molecules do not pass through the cell’s plasma membrane. Professor Berridge’s discovery of the central role the molecule inositol trisphophate, better known at IP3, plays in the calcium signalling pathway in regulating a variety of cellular processes, was a major breakthrough. Receptor molecules on the surface of the cell’s plasma membrane act like molecular antennae seeking out chemical signals like hormones (the first messengers), which, on binding to the receptor, liberate two key messenger molecules from the membrane - IP3 and Diacylglycerol, known as ‘second messengers’. IP3 serves as the intracellular messenger linking events at the cell membrane with the release of another ‘second messenger’, calcium, from intracellular stores in order to elicit a physiological response to external stimulation.

The Biochemical Society: Past recipients of, and criteria for, the Biochemical Society Award
2008: Gurdyal Besra (Birmingham) for 'work carried out by a UK scientist that has advanced health in the developing world'.
2006: Martin Raff and Gregory Winter (Glasgow) for 'scientists who have successfully challenged dogma, created a new field of thinking, elucidated a paradigm or made a fundamental change to established thinking'.
2004: David Lane (Glasgow) for 'basic biochemical research and its exploitation for the benefit of society'.
2002: Steven P.R. Rose and Bernard Dixon (London and Manchester) for 'scientific communication in the public domain'.