Two Norwich Research Park Scientists Elected Fellows of the Royal Society

10 May 2018

Two Norwich Research Park scientists have  been elected Fellows of the Royal Society: Professor Cathie Martin of the John Innes Centre and Professor Sophien Kamoun from The Sainsbury Laboratory.

Professor Cathie Martin, a project leader in metabolic biology at the John Innes Centre, has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

In a long and distinguished career at the John Innes Centre, Professor Martin has been a powerful advocate and practitioner in the application of plant science for human health.

She becomes the 29th scientist in the 108-year history of the John Innes Centre to receive the honour.

The Fellowship of the Royal Society is made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists working in the UK and Commonwealth. Past Fellows and Foreign Members have included Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking.

“This is an honour and I would like to thank the many inspiring colleagues and collaborators particularly from the John Innes Centre and from around the world who have worked with me along the way,” said Professor Martin.

In a 35-year career at the John Innes Centre, Professor Martin has researched plant genetics and metabolism to provide new insights into plant developmental and metabolic processes.

Her work has made important contributions to the understanding of cell shaping and to the biosynthesis and diversity of plant polyphenolic molecules which are beneficial to human health.

Her current work investigates the relationship between food and health – specifically how crops can be fortified to improve diets and address the global challenge of escalating chronic disease.

Professor Martin has a collaborative research programme in China on Chinese Medicinal Plants, particularly those producing anti-cancer metabolites used for complementary therapies. She has a collaborative project with research institutes in Kenya and Ethiopia to develop the resilient legume, grass pea, as a high protein food and forage crop, suitable for sub-Saharan Africa.

She was Editor-in-Chief of The Plant Cell (2008-2014) and is now an Associate Editor for Plant Physiology. She is a member of EMBO, AAAS, a fellow of ASPB and in 2014 was awarded an MBE for services to plant biotechnology.

Director of the John Innes Centre Professor Dale Sanders said: “This honour is truly well deserved. It recognises Cathie’s outstanding research on the genetics of plant metabolism, as well as her wide-reaching contributions to the research community."

Professor Sophien Kamoun, a group leader at The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

In a distinguished career, Professor Kamoun, who is also Professor of Biology at the University of East Anglia, has made a major contribution to the understanding of plant diseases and plant immunity. 

The Fellowship of the Royal Society is made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists working in the UK and Commonwealth. 

Past Fellows and Foreign Members have included Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking.

“I’m humbled and honoured by this recognition especially as I’ve only been in the UK for about 10 years,” said Professor Kamoun.

“These days, science is all about teamwork. Behind every individual award stands an amazing team of students and researchers. I’m extremely grateful to the brilliant people I have worked and collaborated with over the years. The thrill of discovery is addictive. Sharing the experience with others is priceless.”

Professor Kamoun has pioneered genomics and molecular biology methods to reveal fundamental insights into the biology and evolution of plant pathogens.

His inventive work in plant pathology has resulted in new approaches to mitigate some of the world’s most serious crop diseases.

He received the American Phytopathological Society Syngenta Award in 2003, the Noel Keen Award in 2013, the Daiwa Adrian Prize in 2010, and the Kuwait Prize in 2016.

He was elected to Academia Europaea in 2011, EMBO in 2015, and has won successive European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Investigator grants in 2011 and 2017.

The Sainsbury Laboratory Senior Group Leader and Head, Professor Cyril Zipfel said: “This is an outstanding recognition for Sophien, which clearly reflects his major contributions to the fields of molecular plant-microbe interactions and plant biology in general, nationally and internationally. 

“Sophien has also recently pioneered open-science initiatives as well as established science-based advocacy for plant biotechnological approaches to tackle important plant diseases affecting agriculture and the environment globally.”

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. 

The Society’s fundamental purpose, reflected in its founding Charters of the 1660s, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.