2012 Franklin medal and prize

Professor Howard R Morris, Imperial College London. For his contributions to mass spectrometer design which revolutionised peptide sequencing and fuelled the proteomics revolution.

Howard Morris is regarded by many as the founding father of modern Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry (MS). Today MS is critical for the structural characterisation of protein and glycoprotein products from the world’s biotechnology and pharma industries, and the origins of today’s key strategies and instrumentation lie in Morris’s pioneering research efforts.

He was the first to apply mass spectrometry to protein sequencing, and produced the first MS sequencing method for protein-derived peptides. He followed this with a number of novel and important scientific concepts for improving MS applications. These included the introduction of high field magnet MS in the 1970s, which enabled the first high sensitivity analysis of biopolymers, and the development of a low-energy ultra-high sensitivity tandem MS/MS method in the early 1990s. In the latter case, Morris conceived that a novel geometry quadrupole orthogonal acceleration time of flight instrument (Q-TOF) would be the method of choice. The first commercial Q-TOFs followed in 1996. This instrument fuelled the proteomics revolution of the late 1990’s and is proving of particular value in the vast research areas of drug discovery, pharmacokinetics and systems biology.

Convinced of the importance of advanced instrumentation to the life sciences, Morris founded a consultancy and analysis company, M-Scan, which helps industry to solve difficult chemical and biochemical problems. M-Scan (Mass Spectrometry Consultants and Analysts) has grown to encompass four laboratories (UK, USA, Switzerland and Germany), employing some 65 scientists, and housing twenty advanced mass spectrometers applied to problems as diverse as monoclonal antibody structural characterisation for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries to the identification of environmental pollutants, and accelerants in Formula 1 fuels. They have also assisted police forces with forensic analyses for murder and arson investigations. M-Scan has developed into a leading company in its field and is now part of the SGS group.