South Warwickshire scientist wins Royal Society of Chemistry Prize - The Leamington Observer

South Warwickshire scientist wins Royal Society of Chemistry Prize

Leamington Editorial 14th Jun, 2024   0

A GROUND-breaking scientist from south Warwickshire has won the prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry Prize.

Professor Tim Bugg, who lives near Stratford, has been named winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Interdisciplinary Prize in recognition of brilliance in research and innovation.

Based at the University of Warwick, Professor Bugg won the prize for the discovery of bacterial enzymes for the degradation of lignin, and their application to the conversion of lignin to renewable chemicals.

The prize also includes £5,000 and a medal.

To combat global warming, the planet’s dependence on crude oil must be reduced, which many plastics, materials, and industrial chemicals are made from. The ‘biorefinery’ concept – making fuels and chemicals from renewable plant biomass – is gaining global traction.

Professor Bugg’s research group is working on one of the unsolved problems of biorefinery – how to convert the aromatic polymer lignin into useful chemicals.

Lignin is very hard to break down, but the group has discovered several new bacterial enzymes that can break down lignin and studied how these enzymes work at the molecular level.

They have also engineered bacterial lignin-degrading bacteria such as soil microbe Rhodococcus jostii RHA1 to produce useful chemicals like vanillin (used in the food industry) and precursors to new bio-based plastics.

This research, along with the work of other research groups around the world, has established the feasibility of converting lignin using low-energy biochemical transformations into feedstock and high-value chemicals.

Professor Bugg said: “It’s a great honour to receive an RSC Prize. I’m proud of the work that we have done on lignin degradation since 2008, and I’ve had a number of excellent researchers (PhD students and postdocs) come through my group during that time who have made this possible, so I feel that this is a recognition of their hard work and ideas as well as my own.”

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s prizes have recognised excellence in the chemical sciences for more than 150 years. This year’s winners join a prestigious list of past winners in the RSC’s prize portfolio, 60 of whom have gone on to win Nobel Prizes for their work, including 2022 Nobel laureate Carolyn Bertozzi and 2019 Nobel laureate John B Goodenough.


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