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29 January 2014
Professor John Harwood from the School of Biosciences has been made a 2013 Fellow of the Institute of Biocatalysis and Biotechnology (ISBAB). The honour is only given once a year and recognises research into the furtherance of biotechnology.
The ISBAB is the international organisation that highlights the contributions of basic research to biotechnological applications and advances. At the same time, Professor Harwood was made an Academian of the World Academy of Biocatalysis and Agricultural Biotechnology.
Professor Harwood was recognised for two aspects of his research; his work on improvement of oil crops and the role of dietary lipids for good health.
Oil crops are a very important agricultural commodity and Professor Harwood’s group have studied how regulation of oil accumulation is controlled using novel quantitative methods. Their application of flux control analysis to key crops like oil palm, oilseed rape and soybean has been world-leading with major international commercial and governmental bodies adopting the methodology for enhancement of oil crop strains. These three crops alone produce oil worth $135billion and are of vital economic importance.
Certain fatty acids are essential for the human (and most other animal) diets. These are polyunsaturated fatty acids belonging to the omega-3 and -6 series. The former are important as sources of anti-inflammatory mediators and, as such, have implications for diseases like arthritis, cardio-vascular and dementia where chronic inflammation is a driver. Professor Harwood, in collaboration with Professor Bruce Caterson, also of the School of Biosciences, has provided a molecular mechanism for the beneficial effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly in osteoarthritis. This mechanism has been implemented by global companies producing neutraceuticals, such as Seven Seas (Merck) and also in the animal foods industry, for example Hills Pet Nutrition in their brand-leading Science Plan products.
Professor Harwood said: "It is an honour to receive these prestigious awards in recognition of my continuing work in lipid biochemistry. Our studies demonstrate the importance of this type of research to the challenges of food security and nutritional health worldwide."
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