Head of Department elected Fellow of Royal Society

Posted on 29 April 2016

Congratulations to Professor Ian Graham on his election to the fellowship of the Royal Society, the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence.

The Head of Department of Biology and Weston Chair of Biochemical Genetics, joins the UK's most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists to be awarded in recognition of excellence in science.

Professor Graham, whose research team is based in the Department's Centre for Novel Agricultural Products, has made an outstanding contribution to knowledge and understanding in the fields of plant metabolism and seed biology over the last 20 years. This is exemplified by his recent, transformative research on the synthesis of bioactive compounds in two of the world's major medicinal crops, opium poppy and Artemisia annua.

The discovery of a 10 gene cluster responsible for the production of the anti-cancer compound noscapine in opium poppy provided the tools for molecular breeding of new commercial varieties while the discovery of a novel P450 – oxidoreductase gene fusion described the last unknown step in synthesis of the painkiller drugs, morphine and codeine. Characterisation and genetic mapping of traits responsible for production of artemisinin in Artemisia annua has enabled development of F1 hybrid seed that can deliver a robust source of this vital anti-malarial drug for the developing world.

Professor Graham's Fellowship comes after his recent award of the Biochemical Society's 2017 Heatley Medal and Prize for exceptional work in enhancing the reputation of biochemical research as a source of wellbeing and prosperity.

Professor Graham said: "It is a great honour to be elected to the fellowship of the Royal Society. Joining the ranks of many of the world's most eminent scientists, past and present, is really quite humbling.

"Over the years I have had the privilege of working with many excellent, dedicated students and staff in my research group. They can all take credit for this recognition. I would also like to thank my colleagues in the Department of Biology and across the University of York as well as my collaborators and funders. Their continued help and support is very much appreciated."

Professor Deborah Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and former Head of the Department of Biology at the University of York, said of Professor Graham's success: "Ian Graham's election as a Fellow of the Royal Society could not be more deserving.  Ian is an outstanding scientist and an inspirational leader; his pioneering research will impact on the lives of millions around the globe.  I am delighted that Ian's work has received this recognition at the very highest level."

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