Knighthood for Prof Christopher Dobson, master of St John’s College, in recognition of ground-breaking Alzheimer’s research

PUBLISHED: 00:18 09 June 2018 | UPDATED: 00:49 09 June 2018

Professor Sir Christopher Dobson, of St John's College, Cambridge

Professor Sir Christopher Dobson, of St John's College, Cambridge

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And Newnham College classicist Mary Beard is “100% delighted” to be made a dame in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Prof Mary Beard, of Newnham College, University of Cambridge, has been made a dame in the Queen's Birthday HonoursProf Mary Beard, of Newnham College, University of Cambridge, has been made a dame in the Queen's Birthday Honours

Professor Christopher Dobson, the master of St John’s College, Cambridge, says he is “truly humbled” to have been knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2018.

The honour recognises his contributions to science and higher education.

Sir Christopher is one of the world’s leading scientists working at the interface of the physical and biological sciences.

In 2013, he co-founded the £50million Cambridge Centre for Misfolding Diseases (CMD), where scientists analyse the origins of neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, which occur because of misfolded protein molecules.

Experimental work by Sir Christopher and his inter-disciplinary research team has led to major breakthroughs.

Sir Christopher told of his astonishment at the knighthood, which he dedicated to his students and scientific colleagues.

He said: “I am truly humbled to receive this remarkable honour. It would not have been possible without the brilliance and dedication of my students and scientific colleagues over many years, whose commitment to improving the lives of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions is deeply impressive.

“It also recognises the commitment of the University of Cambridge, and the UK higher education sector in general, to educating to the highest possible standards the most able and deserving students on whose shoulders the future of the world depends.”

Professor Tuomas Knowles, a co-founder of CMD and a fellow of St John’s, said: “Sir Christopher’s landmark discoveries over the past 30 years have truly transformed our understanding of misfolding diseases.

Richard Henderson, of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, has been made a Companion of Honour. It follows his Nobel Prize in 2017. Picture: Keith HeppellRichard Henderson, of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, has been made a Companion of Honour. It follows his Nobel Prize in 2017. Picture: Keith Heppell

“His work has had enormous influence throughout the physical, biological and medical sciences, establishing new connections, and generating wide-reaching implications for molecular medicine. It is wonderful that such an eminent scientist and influential and inspiring leader has been recognised with this honour.”

Educated at the University of Oxford, Sir Christopher became an assistant professor of chemistry at Harvard University before returning to Oxford as professor of chemistry. In 2001 he moved to the University of Cambridge when he was appointed the John Humphrey Plummer professor of chemical and structural biology and elected a fellow of St John’s College. He became master of St John’s in 2007.

Sir Christopher paid tribute to the University of Cambridge and the Department of Chemistry for their support and encouragement.

He said: “I cannot express strongly enough how much I have valued the inspiration, encouragement, support and friendship that I have received at St John’s from students, staff, fellows and alumni, and how important the intellectual and cultural environment that exists in this truly remarkable college has been for my scientific activities.”

In 2016, he co-founded Wren Therapeutics, a start-up biotechnology company whose mission is to take the ideas developed at CMD and translate them into finding new drugs to treat Alzheimer’s.

Sir Christopher Lord Nigel Crisp, an honorary fellow of St John’s and independent crossbench member of the House of Lords, where he co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health, commended Sir Christopher’s “exceptional” leadership in science and education.

He said: “This award is very richly deserved. Sir Christopher is one of the country’s leading scientists who has achieved remarkable breakthroughs and been a mentor and inspiration to many other scientists.

“He has brought these same qualities of intellectual rigour and humanity to St John’s where he has proved to be an exceptional leader and master.”

Professor Dame Carol Black, principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, and an expert adviser on health and qork to the Department of Health and Social Care, said: “Professor Sir Christopher Dobson has made an ever-increasing contribution to the understanding of how aberrant protein molecule association can lead to human diseases, particularly those of neurodegenerative origin such as Alzheimer’s. His knighthood is a well-deserved recognition of his outstanding work.”

Dr Darrin Disley, who left as CEO of Horizon Discovery in February 2018, has been made an OBEDr Darrin Disley, who left as CEO of Horizon Discovery in February 2018, has been made an OBE

Sir Christopher gave a message of hope to those battling diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

He said: “Preventing and treating these disorders are huge challenges but we are confident they will be defeated just as so many diseases that have affected humanity in the past have been conquered.”

Among the scientists whose careers Sir Christopher has helped to foster is Professor Dame Carol Robinson, now of Oxford University.

She said: “His many contributions to our understanding of protein misfolding diseases have changed our view of this important branch of science and informed potential therapies.

“Chris is also a great mentor and inspiration to his students and has transformed many careers, including my own.”

Sir Christopher added: “On a personal note, I want to thank my friends, family and colleagues, and especially my wife, Mary, and children, Richard and William, for their fantastic encouragement throughout my life and career.”

Cambridge was well-represented in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2018.

Classicist Mary Beard, of Newnham College, Cambridge, was made a dame in the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours in recognition of her contribution to the study of classical civilisation.

She said: “I am absolutely 100 per cent delighted – especially to realise that classical civilisation is still taken seriously enough to be recognised in this way. That said, I expect a good few jokes about pantomime dames...!’

Richard Henderson, of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, who won a Nobel Prize last year for his work on cryo-electron microscopy, has been awarded a Companion of Honour.

Darrin Disley has been made an OBE for his services to business, enterprise and health. Until February, Dr Disley was chief executive of life science company Horizon Discovery, based in Waterbeach. He is a supporter of more than 40 life science ventures and a number of educational and entrepreneurship schemes.

Trumpington-based GP trainee Dr Nishma Manek was made an MBE after founding an NHS England-funded leadership training programme for GP trainees and young GPs called ‘Next Generation GP’.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary head of operations Chief Supt Vicky Skeels, who was area commander based at Parkside in Cambridge, was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal. An experienced firearms and public order commander, she has previously received an award for mentoring from the British Association of Women in Policing and in 2009 was recognised with an award from the International Association of Women in Policing.

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