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The University of Southampton

Southampton professor awarded international prize for mission to tackle untreatable diseases

Published: 6 August 2020
Professor Ali Tavassoli
Professor Ali Tavassoli has been selected for the European Peptide Society's Leonidas Zervas Award.

Professor Ali Tavassoli from the University of Southampton has been presented the European Peptide Society’s Leonidas Zervas Award for pioneering advances to help develop therapies for untreatable diseases.

The Professor of Chemical Biology in the School of Chemistry is leading an interdisciplinary team of scientists developing chemical tools that provide new insight into the role of protein-protein interactions.

The high-throughput screening platforms and compounds developed in Southampton have been spun out into a new company, Curve Therapeutics, which aims to progress the molecules to the clinic as therapeutics.

The Leonidas Zervas Award honours outstanding contributions to peptide science over the past five years, with Ali’s recognition following a number of nominations from across the international scientific community.

“This is such a lovely surprise as I had no idea that I had been put forward for the award,” Ali says. “It means a lot to me that the work of my team and has been recognised as worthy of this award by my peers.

“My lab’s focus has developed a platform that allows the production of millions of a class of compounds, called cyclic peptides, in engineered cells. We have coupled this compound library with cell-based methods for assessing the activity of these molecules against a given disease target. We have used this approach for the development of inhibitors against several disease targets for which there has previously been none.

“Our technology now has a proven track record against some of the most challenging disease targets and I am hopeful that through the combined efforts of my lab and my company we can deliver therapeutics for currently untreatable diseases.”

Ali is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) and President of the RSC’s Chemical Biology Interface Division. Appointed as a Lecturer in Chemical Biology at Southampton in 2006, he was promoted to Reader in 2011 and then a Professor of Chemical Biology in 2015.

He has won a number of awards during his career, including the European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences' medal for European Young Chemist in 2008 and the RSC Medimmune Protein and Peptide Science Award in 2017.

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