Microbiology prize win 'fantastic'

Molecular microbiologist Peter Fineran in his laboratory. Photo: Sharron Bennett
Molecular microbiologist Peter Fineran in his laboratory. Photo: Sharron Bennett
University of Otago molecular microbiologist Associate Prof Peter Fineran has won a top international science prize for outstanding early career research.

Gaining the United Kingdom Microbiology Society's 2019 Fleming Prize was a ''fantastic'' outcome, which reflected the strong team contribution from other researchers in his laboratory, he said.

The prize was particularly meaningful because it was in the name of microbiologist Sir Alexander Fleming, who was also a founder and the first president (1945-47) of the society, Prof Fineran said.

Sir Alexander (1881-1955) jointly won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 for his discovery of the world's first antibiotic substance, a form of penicillin.

Prof Fineran has undertaken cutting-edge research in a rapidly developing field involving the study of the immune system which bacteria use to defend themselves against viruses, called ''phages''.

When he started working in the international field in Otago in 2008, only a few research groups had been operating, but that had since risen greatly, Prof Fineran said.

This research was part of ''the biggest biological science revolution in recent decades'', which was enabling scientists to move on from ''reading'' the genome to potentially editing it.

Deeper understanding of bacterial defence mechanisms, particularly the CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune systems and innate abortive infection/toxin-antitoxin systems, was also opening up many other possibilities, including to develop more effective antimicrobial drugs, to avoid antibiotic drug resistance, Prof Fineran said.

He will travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to give the prize lecture next April, and receive the award.


Add a Comment



Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter