Professor Stephen Jackson has been named the inaugural Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) Innovator of the Year for his work developing cancer therapies that have saved the lives of numerous patients.

The award honours the UK bioscientist who has excelled in turning world-class research into a product, company, service or advice to have an impact on our lives.

Professor Jackson was named the Innovator of the Year at an awards ceremony and gala dinner at Banqueting House in London last night (24 March) and was presented with the trophy and prize cheque for £10,000 by the well-known finance and television personality Alvin Hall.

An independent judging panel had earlier selected Professor Jackson as the 2009 Innovator of the Year for his work turning research on DNA damage and repair into cancer therapies that are now saving the lives of breast and ovarian cancer sufferers.

Professor Stephen Jackson said: “It's a tremendous honour to receive this prestigious award. It really reflects that science, like that funded by BBSRC in my group over the years, can yield both exciting science and commercial and social applications.

"I think this award is a showcase for how funding of science by BBSRC is able to provide major tangible benefits, not only the UK science base but also the biotech and pharmaceutical industries."

Professor Jackson’s research into DNA damage and repair at the University of Cambridge led to the formation of KuDOS Pharmaceuticals in 1997, following his discovery that it was possible, in principle, to develop drugs that specifically prevented certain DNA repair proteins from working in cancer cells, leaving normal cells unaffected.

Alvin Hall, highlighting the importance of innovation in a downturn, said: "It was a total pleasure to attend the Innovator of Year ceremony, to meet the inspiring finalists and to present the prizes. I work with companies on both sides of the Atlantic to help them to develop and grow - and at the moment how to get through the downturn. One thing all organisations need is bright people prepared to take a great idea and run with it. In the finalists of Innovator of the Year, the UK has seven individuals who have already done this."

The Innovator of the Year Award is an annual competition designed to recognise and reward those bioscientists who are taking steps to transfer the UK’s world beating bioscience research base into impacts that positively affect quality of life for UK citizens. The award aims to build a culture amongst the research base where all scientists consider the potential of their research and the steps that could be taken to maximise its social and economic impact.

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: “The group of finalists the judges had to select the winner from was absolutely fantastic and everyone at BBSRC congratulates Professor Stephen Jackson on being named 2009 Innovator of the Year.

“The finalists represent both the pinnacle of bioscientists who are turning their research into impact and, at the same time, just the tip of the iceberg. UK bioscience is world beating and BBSRC is striving to help translate this into economic and social benefits to create world beating companies and products. From tackling superbugs and developing new drugs to higher yielding crops and new animal vaccines, bioscience research generates millions of pounds for the UK economy and saves billions of pounds through policy advice every year. When the world emerges from recession it will be these high-tech, knowledge intensive areas that will help to power the UK economy.”

Professor Jackson is the Frederick James Quick Professor of Biology at the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute of Cancer and Developmental Biology.

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