Fellow wins Young Chemical Biologist award

Dr Gonçalo Bernardes, Staff Fellow and Director of Studies in Chemistry at Trinity Hall, has been selected to receive the 2020 International Chemical Biology Society (ICBS) Young Chemical Biologist award.

Dr Goncalo Bernardes

He leads a research program at the interface of chemistry and biology focusing on the development of new reactions for the construction of new antibody-drug conjugates for the treatment of cancer.

“I am deeply humbled by this award,” said Dr Bernardes. “This means a lot to me, as it is a recognition of my research group’s innovativeness and resilience.”

He added: “I feel lucky to be part of an incredible group of chemical biologists and I am grateful to the Chemical Biology Society for the recognition of my group’s research work.”

He added that his role in the College has also been very fulfilling: “It has been a privilege to count myself amongst the Science Fellows and to benefit from the rich history of the college, the excellent teaching we offer our students, and the supportive and international profile of the young and ambitious fellowship.”

The award cites Dr Bernardes’ ground-breaking research in the “design of new chemistry for site-selective bioconjugation of therapeutic antibodies and disease-associated proteins in cells”, which has been highly impactful.

It notes that his innovative work is considered to be “at the forefront of the interface of chemistry and biology” and “has led to many breakthroughs in protein chemistry and new chemical methodologies to address difficult questions in life sciences.”

One example of this innovative work is the recent publication of the Bernardes research group’s development of a new tool for degrading RNA sequences in living cells using click-chemistry reactions.

Dr Bernardes is one of four young scientists recognised by the ICBS, which is an independent, nonprofit organisation dedicated to promoting research and educational opportunities at the interface of chemistry and biology. The award will be presented at the “Rising Stars” session of the ICBS2020 virtual conference on 13 November.

This is not the only accolade Dr Bernardes has received this week. Dr Bernardes was born and raised in Portugal and was the first high-school and university graduate in his family. He divides his time between his laboratories in Cambridge and Lisbon, and has just been made a member of the Portuguese Diaspora Council. The council exists to strengthen of relations with Portuguese and Portuguese descent communities around the world and promote the country internationally.

A version of this story first appeared on the University of Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry website.