Professor Alvin Nienow wins Peter Dunnill award and the Advanced Therapies Manufacturing Taskforce wins Richard Wilson Impact award at bioProcessUK

The winner of this year’s Peter Dunnill Award to be presented at the bioProcessUK conference has been announced as Professor Alvin Nienow. Alvin is Emeritus Professor of Biochemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, a Visiting Professor at Aston and Loughborough  Universities and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. In addition to this the Advanced Therapies Manufacturing Taskforce has been announced as the winner of the Richard Wilson Impact award. 

The BIA caught up with Professor Nienow ahead of the conference presentation to find out more about his career to date and his reaction to winning the award. He, along with Peter Dunnill,  started the undergraduate course at UCL in 1973. The course initially attracted students who were considering medicine; and they had to have passed A-level chemistry. 

His first paper on biochemical engineering was with Peter Dunnill and Colin Thomas in 1979 on the previously-reported ‘shear damage’ to enzymes from mixing; they did not find any. That aspect of mixing has been a continued area of focus for Alvin since that time. His more than 350 research papers have mainly been on mixing, especially related to bioprocesses in stirred bioreactors applied to animal cells, bacteria, yeast, mycelia, plasmid DNA and most recently, stem cells on microcarriers. 







Professor Nienow said: “I was very surprised to win the award. I come from a chemical engineering background but have always worked with highly talented biologists since that first paper. When first rate chemical engineers and biologists collaborate, it makes a big impact and this is why it’s so important; particularly around new areas such as regenerative medicine."

Collaboration has been central to Professor Nienow’s career and is something he believes is vital within the sector if it is to continue to grow and succeed in the future. He said: ”One of the greatest highlights in my career has been getting to work with such talented people from all over the world. It is so important that experts from biology and chemical/biochemical engineering work together as this is how we can make progress. Close collaboration between industry and academia can also help to make a big impact as it brings different skill sets and knowledge together”. 

“What’s always vital to remember in collaboration is that there are no stupid questions – as long as you ask respectfully and answer carefully – I’ve certainly had a lot of sympathetic answers from the people I have collaborated with; and without these people I don’t think I’d be getting this award.”

Looking to the future, Professor Nienow outlined how some of the latest medicines present new challenges that the bioprocessing community are going to have to come up with innovative solutions for to solve. He said: “There are lots of big questions around the costs of new regenerative medicines and personalised medicines. They present new challenges for bioprocessing as you need a lot of cells but sometimes not enough to make a normal bioreactor viable; and even with allogeneic therapies, where similar bioreactors and microcarriers are used, the fact that the cells are the product makes it different. In this area, there are already many challenges and the science is developing so fast, that industry-academic collaboration will be needed to address them.”

Professor Nienow has received a range of awards throughout his career and was particularly pleased to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Western Pomerania in Poland (Pictured). His awards include Moulton and Donald Medals (Institution of Chemical Engineers), Lifetime Recognition Award for Mixing (European Federation of Chemical Engineers) and Jan. E. Purkyne Medal (Czech Academy of Sciences). He is also Honorary Member of the Czech Society of Chemical Engineering. He has consulted and taught courses for many companies in UK, Europe and USA and the FMP/BHRG industrial research consortium. 

The second award being presented at the conference will be the Richard Wilson Impact award that is going to the Advanced Therapies Manufacturing Taskforce. The Taskforce helped industry to influence government around the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and had a range of successful outputs. Former chair of the Advanced Therapies Manufacturing Taskforce, Ian McCubbin, said: “On behalf of the Taskforce it's an honour to collect this award. The Taskforce was a great team effort, strongly supported by industry, BIA, ABPI and KTN and of course a key part of MMIP activity, and our actions provided strong input into the Life Science Industrial Strategy. Much has been done, the government is listening, and if we can continue to execute our recommendations the UK can be a leading global hub for advanced therapy commercial scale manufacturing.”

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