Norman Heatley Award

The Norman Heatley Award is to recognise and promote the importance of inter- and multi-disciplinary research between chemistry and the life sciences through independent work.

2019 Winner

Professor Justin Benesch

2019 Norman Heatley Award Winner

Professor Justin Benesch, University of Oxford

General information

  • Run annually
  • The winner receives 2000, a medal and a certificate
  • The winner will complete a UK lecture tour
  • The winner will be chosen by the RSC Chemistry Biology Interface Division Awards Committee                

Guidelines for Nominators

  • Only RSC Members can nominate for this award
  • Nominees may NOT nominate themselves
  • The award is open to nominees based in the UK or Republic of Ireland only
  • Nominees should be a mid-career scientist, typically with no more than 15 years of full-time equivalent professional experience. 
  • This should be experience gained as part of a scientific career excluding time spent in full-time education. Time spent as a postgraduate student should not be included e.g. Masters, PhD. Time spent as a post-doctoral researcher should be included. 
  • Nominators will be asked to provide details of the nominee's professional experience, in relation to the above criteria.   
  • Career breaks will be recognised, and applications are particularly encouraged from those whose career has spanned a break due to caring responsibilities or personal circumstances e.g. a period of parental/adoption leave, family commitments, illness, or other exceptional circumstances.
  • When nominating previous RSC prize or award winners, please remember that a person cannot be awarded twice for substantially the same body of work     

To make a nomination please use our online awards nominations system  to submit the following:

  • Your name, contact details, and membership number (please contact the RSC Membership team if you do not know your membership details)
  • The nominee's name and contact details 
  • An up to date CV for the nominee (no longer than one A4 side, 11pt text) which should include a summary of their education and career, a list of 5 relevant publications, total numbers of publications and patents (if appropriate) and website URL if relevant
  • A supporting statement (up to 4500 characters, not including spaces) addressing the selection criteria 
  • A short citation describing what the nominee should be awarded for. This must be no longer than 250 characters (not including spaces) and ideally no longer than one sentence 
  • The names and contact details of two referees. Please inform referees of the nomination as the awards system will contact them as soon as the application is submitted. Referees may not include the nominee's post-doc or PhD supervisor 
  • Referees must provide reports by 31 January 
  • We will contact nominators and referees of nominees with outstanding references one week after close of nominations on 15 January once only.         

The RSC reserves the right to rescind any Prize or Award if there is reasonable grounds to do so. All nominators will be asked to confirm that, to the best of their knowledge, there is no confirmed or potential impediment to their nominee receiving this prize/award related to their professional standing. Our Professional Practice and Code of Conduct can be referred to as a guide on expected standards.

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Selection Criteria for RSC Awards

Our selection committees base their evaluations primarily on the overall quality of relevant contributions made by nominees and not simply on quantitative measures.

The selection committee(s) will consider the following aspects of all nominations for scientific research Awards as appropriate:

  • Originality of research
  • Impact of research
  • Quality of publications and/or patents and/or software
  • Innovation
  • Professional standing
  • Independence 
  • Collaborations and teamwork
  • Other indicators of esteem indicated by the nominee/nominator       

Guidelines for Referees

  • The awards system will contact referees to inform them that they must provide reports (of up to 4500 characters, not including spaces) by 31 January.
  • We will contact nominators and referees of nominees with outstanding references after one week after close of nominations on 15 January once only.
  • Referees must state their relationship (if any) with the nominee and note any conflicts of interest.     

Chemistry Biology Interface Division Awards Committee

  • Mark Bradley, University of Edinburgh (Chair) 
  • Kira Weissman, University of Lorraine
  • Dominic Campopiano, University of Edinburgh   
  • Jane Thomas-Oates, University of York
  • Steve Archibald, University of Hull 
  • Bonnie Wallace, Birkbeck, University of London

Previous Winners

Norman Heatley Award Previous Winners

2008 - present

History of the Award

Norman Heatley working in the laboratory

© Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford
This award is named in honour of Norman Heatley. It was previously advertised as the Chemical Biology Interface Forum Early Career Award and was established in 2008.

Norman Heatley graduated from St John's College Cambridge with a degree in Natural Sciences, he then undertook a PhD in Biochemistry, also at Cambridge, after which he moved to Oxford to work at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology.

Although Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, he did not realise it's full potential. It was Professor Florey and his team at Oxford who recognised that penicillin could combat bacterial infection. Heatley played a key role in developing culture methods for the penicillium mould and in extracting and purifying the active 'penicillin' from the cultures in order to test it on animals and eventually on humans also. He designed the specially commissioned ceramic 'bed pans' to grow these cultures on a larger scale.

Norman Heatley with the penicillin vessel

© Oxford and County Newspapers
An Abingdon policeman, Albert Alexander dying of septicaemia was the first human to be treated with penicillin. As the drug was in such short supply, it was even extracted from the patient's urine on a daily basis in order to be re administered. Dramatic improvements were seen, however there was not sufficient penicillin to continue with the treatment, so he died.

The major drug companies in wartime Britain were already overstretched and so could not be persuaded to attempt to mass produce penicillium cultures. Florey and Heatley flew to the USA where they persuaded several of the largest pharmaceutical companies to collaborate in the research to find better strains of penicillium and better methods of culture, extraction and purification. By 1943 mass production had begun and casualties in the second world war could be treated. The full potential of penicillin then became clear. It really appeared as a 'miracle drug'.

Florey was advised by University lawyers and the MRC that he should not take out patents on his team's discoveries, although subsequently the Americans did patent some of the methods developed in the USA.

Whereas Fleming received a Nobel prize and more than 160 public honours for his part in the discovery and development of penicillin, the world's first antibiotic, Heatley received one honorary degree, a DM from Oxford, the first awarded to a non-medic, and two honorary fellowships and an OBE from the nation for his work.

Contact and Further Information

Royal Society of Chemistry, Thomas Graham House, Cambridge Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge, CB4 0WF
Tel: +44 (0)1223 420066