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Bayer Early Excellence in Science Award: EUR 30,000 for international scientists

Awards from the Bayer Science & Education Foundation

  • Dr. Abigail Doyle (Associate Professor at Princeton University, USA) wins the "Chemistry" category
  • Dr. Steven Spoel (Principal Investigator at the University of Edinburgh, UK) takes the "Biology" award
  • Dr. Javier Fernandez (Associate Researcher at Wyss Institute/Harvard University, Boston, USA) awarded prize in the "Materials" field

Leverkusen, January 10, 2013 –The winners of the Bayer Early Excellence in Science Award 2013 have been announced. The prizes, each worth EUR 10,000, have been awarded by an independent scientific committee of the Bayer Science & Education Foundation. The Bayer foundation presents for the fifth time the international Bayer Early Excellence in Science Award to excellent young scientists in the early stages of their academic careers.

"Research and science exce llence play a central role for the innovation company Bayer. I am delighted that these prizes give us the opportunity to support and motivate the best talents in science," said Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG responsible for Innovation, Technology and Sustainability, and member of the Board of Directors of the foundation. "Bayer’s innovation strategy has a long-standing history for exchange and partnership with academia. The promotion of up-coming scientists is an important element in our program. This early dialogue opens strategic partnership opportunities and thus is a key to future success of industrial research," continued Plischke.

This international prize was first presented in 2009. It is awarded annually in the three categories biology, chemistry and materials. The selection is made on the basis of the originality and quality of candidates’ research and the significance of this work for the respective award category.

Synthetic Chemistry: Novel molecules paving the way to innovative pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and materials

Dr. Abigail Doyle was trained in organic chemistry at the Universities Harvard and Stanford before starting her independent career as Assistant Professor at Princeton University in 2008. At Princeton, she has established a research program at the interface between organic synthesis, organometallic catalysis, and physical organic chemistry. Her research group has pioneered mild and efficient methods for the incorporation of fluorine into organic molecules and cross-coupling with unconventional reaction partners using transition metal catalysis.

Fluorine is extremely important for many active ingredients used in medicine and crop protection, but often hard to introduce. Her findings allow the replacement of commonly harsh and therefore limited reactions. This novel spectrum of methods delivers a rapid and efficient synthesis of molecules with unique and so far unknown properties. This outstanding achievement paves the way for innovative new routes to molecules of interest both in life sciences and materials research.

Systems Biology: Exploring gene networks for human, animal and plant health

Dr. Steven Spoel is a principal investigator and a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, UK. The major goal of his research is to understand how living cells translate environmental signals into changes in the expression of genes. Any living organism is continuously attacked by biotic pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungi) but also by abiotic factors of chemical or physical (UV light, heat or cold) origin. Systems biology is the way to understand the complexity and the interactivity of the thousands of genes in an organism.

In reaction to environmental signals, certain groups of genes are switched "off" or "on" in a coordinated way to redirect biochemical and metabolic pathways, ensuring the survival of single cells and whole organisms. Spoel showed these switches are controlled by specific gene activators whose stability and activity are tightly controlled by molecular mechanisms that may be conserved from plants to animals and humans. Understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms of coordinated gene expression can provide solutions for cancer treatment and also for the stabilization of crop performance in varying environmental conditions.

Biologically Inspired Engineering: "Supermaterials" which will shape the future of manufacturing

Dr. Javier Fernandez received his Ph.D. in Nanobiotechnology from the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia at University of Barcelona. He has held a postdoctoral position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he developed the "Micromasonry" technology, in which cells contained in polymer cubes are linked to form complex three dimensional structures for use in regenerative medicine.

At the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Fernandez engineered a new material, called "Shrilk", that replicates the exceptional strength, toughness, and versatility of one of nature’s more extraordinary substances–insect cuticle. The material is composed of fibroin protein from silk and chitin, which is the second most abundant organic component on earth and is commonly extracted from discarded shrimp shells. Shrilk is similar in strength and toughness to an aluminum alloy, but it is only half the weight. It is biodegradable, easily molded into complex shapes and can be produced at a low cost. Due to its attributes, Shrilk can be used in many applications including packaging that degrades quickly or as an exceptionally strong, biocompatible material in scaffolds for tissue regeneration.

The prizes are awarded by the Bayer Science & Education Foundation. The primary objectives of the foundation are the recognition of outstanding research achievements, the promotion of talented scientists and support for important school science projects. In content terms, the sponsorship activities focus on technology, natural sciences and medicine. For many years, the foundation has honored outstanding research work with the Hansen Family Award and the Otto Bayer Award in alternate years, each of which carries a purse of EUR 75,000. Since 2008, the foundation has also presented the Bayer Climate Award worth EUR 50,000, which is awarded for outstanding work in the interdisciplinary field of climate and climate impact research. The Bayer Thrombosis Research Award is presented every two years with prize money of EUR 30,000. It is dedicated to basic and clinical research work promoting diagnosis, prevention and therapy of cardiovascular and thromboembolic diseases.

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