Scientific accolade for HZI scientist

Kenneth Timmis awarded UK's highest scientific honor


Prof Kenneth Timmis

The microbiologist Prof. Ken Timmis, Head of the Department of Environmental Microbiology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research has just been awarded the highest scientific accolade in Britain. He has just been elected Fellow of the Royal Society, Britain's most venerable scientific and philosophical academy.

Timmis is distinguished for his early contributions to understanding plasmid replication and, especially, for a career-long string of 'firsts' in metabolic pathway engineering. He discovered the pervasive 'minimal replicon' concept for bacterial plasmids, and the paradigm of negative control of plasmid copy number. He cloned and characterised entire bacterial metabolic pathways for the first time, isolated novel regulators of gene expression, and designed novel catabolic pathways from first principles, notably for bioremediation of environmental pollutants. He discovered complex microbe-clay mineral associations in the soil and used a microbial biofilm community to develop a prize-winning strategy for removing mercury from waste streams.

With his election he is now a member of a select scientific community whose members include Stephen Hawking, Tim Berners Lee, Paul Nurse and John Sulston.

This honor, though individual, is of course a recognition of the scientific advances resulting from the collective efforts of all the members of his groups in Berlin, Geneva and Braunschweig. "I therefore take great pleasure in the fact that my colleagues and friends over the years, who have shared with me their intellectual excitement, scientific careers and personal development, have had their successes publicly acknowledged in this manner. It is also a recognition of the excellence of the institutes in which my group has worked over the years, in particular the HZI, which has been home to it for 20 years."

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