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Sir Gregory Winter receiving honorary doctorate from Uni of Sydney
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Nobel chemist awarded Doctor of Medical Science

8 November 2019
Honorary degree for medical pioneer
Medicinal chemist and Nobel Prize winner Sir Gregory Winter CBE has received a Doctor of Medical Science (honoris causa) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to medical science, entrepreneurship and human health.

In 2018 Sir Gregory was jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his use of an established technique, called ‘phage display’ to produce antibodies (monoclonals) that can target certain cells or molecules.

What is 'phage display'?

A phage is a virus that can infect bacteria and if a gene is introduced to the phage it ‘displays’ the protein on its surface. Using this method researchers could see which gene was responsible for which protein – some previously unknown.

Sir Gregory’s most recent antibody work focused on using phages to produce antibodies and then introducing mutations to enhance the antibodies’ action.

This built upon his own earlier groundbreaking work that enabled monoclonal antibodies to be successfully used therapeutically for the first time – a revolution that led to modern therapeutics being used across an extensive range of human diseases.

There are now more than 500 therapeutic monoclonals treating cancer and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis.

Other uses include targeting leaky retinal blood vessels in diabetes and other sight-threatening disorders, treating osteoporosis and reversing dangerous bleeding caused by modern anticoagulants. The newest effective treatments for migraine are monoclonals which target a receptor protein in pain pathways.

These antibodies can reasonably be said to be to modern medicine what Howard Fleming and Alexander Florey’s development of penicillin was to the antibiotic era.

Honouring Sir Gregory Winter's achievements

“We are honoured to celebrate Sir Gregory Winter’s achievements in relieving human suffering," said Belinda Hutchinson, Chancellor of the University of Sydney, who conferred the honorary doctorate at a ceremony in the Great Hall on 7 November.

"His research has led to the development of the Humira drug with global annual sales of $20 billion treating such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease.  Sir Gregory is grateful for the early funding he received from the Australian company Peptech, which enabled his commercial success. 

"His work is a testament to what the collaboration between academic disciplines, in this case chemistry and clinical medicine, underpinned by molecular science, can make possible.” 

Sir Gregory is a Fellow of The Royal Society and was winner of its 2011 Royal Medal. His many international awards include the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine and the Gairdner International Award. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1997 and Knight Bachelor in 2004. He was until recently Master of Trinity College, University of Cambridge.

He is a former Deputy Director of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, where he was Head of the Division of Protein and Nucleic Acid Chemistry and has done the majority of his research. This laboratory has produced sixteen Nobel Laureates since the Second World War.

 
We are honoured to celebrate Sir Gregory Winter’s achievements in relieving human suffering that are a testament to what the collaboration between academic disciplines ... can make possible.
Belinda Hutchinson, Chancellor of the University of Sydney
Belinda Hutchinson, Chancellor of the University of Sydney, with Nobel laureate Sir Gregory Winter.

Belinda Hutchinson, Chancellor of the University of Sydney, with Nobel laureate Sir Gregory Winter. 

Sir Gregory Winter's history

Sir Gregory is a Fellow of The Royal Society and was winner of its 2011 Royal Medal. His many international awards include the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine and the Gairdner International Award. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1997 and Knight Bachelor in 2004. He was until recently Master of Trinity College, University of Cambridge.

He is a former Deputy Director of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, where he was Head of the Division of Protein and Nucleic Acid Chemistry and has done the majority of his research. This laboratory has produced sixteen Nobel Laureates since the Second World War.

Sir Winter created the Cambridge Antibody Technology company, originally with seed funding from an Australian friend, Geoffrey Grigg, and the Sydney biotechnology company Peptech. In 2018 the international market for therapeutic monoclonals was reported to be US$115 billion.

Sir Winter is still innovating - his latest novel engineered ‘find and attack molecules’ are small peptides called ‘bicycles’, now in clinical trials via his newest company, Bicycle Therapeutics.

Sir Gregory is on the international advisory board of the recently announced ARC Centre of Excellence for Innovations in Peptide and Protein Science. The University of Sydney is the largest research node of the centre and Professor Richard Payne is its deputy director.

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