Scientist known for her drug discoveries wins top prize

Distinguished Professor Dame Margaret Brimble wins a top chemistry award.

Dame Margaret Brimble

Dame Margaret Brimble, a University of Auckland scientist known for her drug discoveries, won a top international chemistry prize, the Pedler Award, for her brilliance in research and innovation.

She joins a roll call of top scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, awarded prizes by the London-based Royal Society of Chemistry over the years.

“I am delighted, as an older female Kiwi scientist, to receive this award from such a prestigious international chemical society with a very long-established tradition of supporting fundamental science globally,” said Dame Margaret. “It provides mana for the many talented organic chemistry students I have had the privilege of working with over the years.”

The Pedler Award acknowledges her pioneering work across natural product synthesis, peptide chemistry, and medicinal chemistry.

Dame Margaret is a distinguished professor in the School of Chemical Sciences in the Faculty of Science. Professor John Hosking, Dean of Science, said he was delighted by the award.

“This is the latest in a very long list of recognitions for Margaret’s excellent research and research leadership and highlights the quality of what Margaret does, as well as the impact it has achieved over a long and sustained period of her career,” he said. “The faculty and the University congratulate Margaret on her award, which is well merited and well deserved.”

I am delighted, as an older female Kiwi scientist, to receive this award from such a prestigious international chemical society

Dame Margaret Brimble

Dame Margaret’s research focuses on the synthesis of novel bioactive natural products, especially molecules derived from extreme environments and shellfish toxins, as anticancer, antibacterial and antiviral agents. She also works on the synthesis of antimicrobial peptides as potential new antibiotics and peptidomimetics as antiviral agents.

Natural products have long been regarded as ‘nature’s medicine chest’, providing invaluable platforms for developing frontline drugs. Over 50 percent of all new drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are ‘inspired’ by natural products.

Dame Margaret’s team discovered the drug candidate NNZ2566 (named trofinetide by the World Health Organisation), which proved successful in phase 3 clinical trials with Neuren Pharmaceuticals and Acadia Pharmaceuticals for the neurogenetic disorder Rett Syndrome.

She receives £3,000 (about $5,800) and a medal. The Royal Society of Chemistry’s prizes have recognised excellence in the chemical sciences for more than 150 years.

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