The 2020 Heatley Medal and Prize will be awarded to Professor James Barber of Imperial College London, UK.
James is a senior research investigator and Emeritus Ernst Chain Professor of Biochemistry at Imperial College London. He is also Visiting Canon Professor to the School of Material Science and Engineering (MSE) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. The focus of his research has been the investigation of photosynthesis and the functional role of the photosystems with emphasis on their molecular structures. Much of his work has focused on Photosystem II, a biological machine able to use light energy to split water into oxygen and reducing equivalents. He reported the first fully refined X-ray structure of this enzyme in 2004. More recently, he has turned his attention from natural to artificial photosynthesis and the production of renewable energy based on the capture and storage of solar energy. To do so he has collaborated with chemists, electrochemists and material scientists to develop appropriate and novel technology. Much of this work has been spurred by the establishment of the Solar Fuels Laboratory within the School of Material Sciences at NTU. James has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a Member of the Academia Europaea, Selby Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the Royal Society and his work has been recognized by a number of UK and international prizes, including the Biochemical Society Novartis Medal and Prize.
James said: "I feel extremely honoured to be awarded the Heatley Medal and Prize. I share this honour with all those who have worked with me over the years. I particularly wish to acknowledge my colleagues in the School of Material Sciences and Engineering at NTU, Singapore with whom I am working on electrochemical systems to mimic natural photosynthesis. The overall challenge is to capture solar energy efficiently and store it in chemical bonds without carbonisation (for example as hydrogen). This is a daunting problem on a global scale but must be solved to sustain ordered human society into the future. As the Sir Ernst Chain Professor of Biochemistry at Imperial College, it is appropriate for me to recognise that Norman Heatley, a colleague of Ernst Chain at Oxford, was a key contributor to the discovery and application of penicillin. It has been surmised that he also deserved the 1945 Nobel Prize along with Ernst Chain, Alexander Fleming and Howard Flory. However the Nobel prize for Medicine or Physiology is limited to three recipients in any one year. I am therefore particularly proud to receive this medal which recognises Heatley’s contributions to one of the major discoveries in medical sciences, one which has saved billions of lives."