Interdisciplinary Prize 2015 Winner
Biochemistry Department, University of Oxford
Awarded for pioneering new solid state NMR techniques that have revealed the functional significance of conformational dynamics in biomembrane complexes of ligands and small molecules
About the Winner
Anthony Watts has used a highly interdisciplinary biophysical approach in the study of proteins and lipids in model and natural membranes. This work has been in three phases, beginning with graduate work on thermodynamic studies of lipids in liposomal and model systems (Astbury Department of Biophysics, Leeds, 1972 - 1975), followed by post-doctoral research into structural and functional studies of the molecular specificity of lipid-protein in membranes (Max Plank Institute for Biophysics, Göttingen, Germany, 1976 - 1980). Since returning to an independent faculty position in Oxford (1980), new methodologies have been developed, initially around wide-line NMR (1980-2000) but then high resolution solid state NMR (1994-2009) for the study of biomolecular systems with specific application for resolving high resolution (sub-Å) structural and dynamic details of ligand- and drug-receptor interactions in the absence of other structural information (Watts, 2005, Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, 4, 555-568; invited review).
During this time, most biophysical methods have been employed, and resulting publications include the use of NMR, ESR, ultracentrifugation, diffraction/scattering (X-ray, optical and neutron), differential scanning calorimetry, electron microscopy, CD, FRET, ATIR, membrane protein crystallizations, SPR, peptide synthesis and computational approaches, as well as molecular biology for expression, mutagenesis, in-gel fluorescence, PCR, fermentation, directed isotope labelling and novel membrane protein reconstitutions. The general approach is thus to address a system in a "hypothesis driven" approach aimed at understanding biology with a range of appropriate methods, rather than specialize in one method.
Professor Watts' webpage
University of Oxford
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