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Chemistry professor accepts Royal Society award – University of Reading

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Chemistry professor accepts Royal Society award

Release Date 15 December 2011

Interview with Professor Ian Hamley

Download the interview with Professor Ian Hamley (right-click to save)

A scientist whose work could help in the fight against Alzheimer's disease and offer new ways of treating wounds has been given an award from the Royal Society.

Ian Hamley, Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Reading, has been awarded a prestigious Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.

The award, announced by the Royal Society today (15 December), provides a five-year funding boost for Professor Hamley, as part of a scheme to keep Britain's top research scientists in the UK. The Royal Society, the world's oldest science academy, makes the awards, which are funded jointly by the Wolfson Foundation, a charitable trust supporting the sciences, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Professor Hamley is planning to use the award to continue his groundbreaking research into peptides, tiny parts of proteins that occur naturally and have an important biological function in the human body.

His research into the structure and functions of peptides has given researchers new insights into potential treatments for Alzheimer's disease, a degenerative and incurable form of dementia that afflicts millions of people worldwide.

Professor Hamley's team at the Department of Chemistry has also found a form of peptide that can stimulate the formation of collagen, part of the structure of the skin, leading to hopes that peptide-based treatments could be formulated to treat wounds, or in cosmetic applications as an anti-wrinkle cream.

Professor Hamley said he was delighted to be offered the award.

"It's great to be recognised. We've been working in the area for a number of years and this is quite a boost. It's a measure of esteem and prestige which should help us going forward in our interactions with industry and in applying for funding from research councils," he said.

He added that while a cure for Alzheimer's might still be some way off, he and colleagues at the University of Reading were confident that other applications for their discoveries, including treatments for burns, post-operative wounds and eye injuries, as well as a new anti-wrinkle cream, could be created in the next two to three years.

"It's a very big challenge," he said. "We're probably a long way off before someone comes up with a cure for Alzheimer's disease but we would like to think we can make some contributions to that, giving some pointers in how you design some molecules that could do that. We've come up with some quite interesting compounds which look as if they could be very useful."


For more information, or to organise interviews, please contact Pete Castle at the University of Reading press office on 0118 378 7391 or

Notes to editors

One of the main contributing causes of Alzheimer's disease is thought to be the formation of hard, insoluble plaques between the neurons in the brain. In a healthy brain, protein fragments are broken down and eliminated but in people with Alzheimer's disease such fragments accumulate to form troublesome amyloid plaques. Professor Hamley and his team have synthesised samples of short peptides, fragments of proteins, based on the human sequence, modifying their design with the aim of enabling them to bind to the fibrils in the brain and disrupt the formation of plaques.

Around 30 Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Awards are given to research scientists in the UK each year. The award is made with the agreement of the awardee's university, and provides a five-year salary boost, with the aim of keeping country's leading scientists in the UK.

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