British biophysicist Dr Richard Henderson shares in Nobel Prize in Chemistry

4 October 2017

British molecular biologist and biophysicist Dr Richard Henderson is one of three scientists who are to share in the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, it was announced today.

British biophysicist Dr Richard Henderson shares in Nobel Prize in Chemistry
MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

He and Swiss biophysicist Professor Jacques Dubochet, together with German-born American biophysicist Professor Joachim Frank, have won the prize “for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution”. This allows researchers to freeze biomolecules mid-movement and visualise processes they have never previously seen.

Richard Henderson’s particular contributions include succeeding in 1990 in using an electron microscope to generate a three-dimensional image of a protein at atomic resolution.

Born in Edinburgh, he gained a BSc in physics at the University of Edinburgh before going on to study for a PhD at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, continuing in research there for the rest of his career and being its director in 1996-2006.

Commenting on the announcement, the IOP’s chief executive, Professor Paul Hardaker, said: “We are really pleased to hear the news that Richard has been recognised by the Nobel committee. His work on the development of electron microscopes has been fundamental to us using these devices to understand the 3D structures of biomolecules. This gives us a whole range of invaluable information about the way in which diseases work and therefore how we effectively design drug treatments.

“Richard works in the growing area of biophysics and it is exciting to see the scientific advances we are making when physicists, biologists and chemists work together to tackle our big societal challenges.”

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