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Ben Davis


Professor of Chemical Biology

  • Science Director, Next Generation Chemistry, Rosalind Franklin Institute

I got my BA (1993) and DPhil (1996) from the University of Oxford. During this time I learnt the beauty of carbohydrate chemistry under the supervision of Professor George Fleet and then spent 2 years as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Professor Bryan Jones at the University of Toronto, exploring protein chemistry and biocatalysis.

In 1998 I returned to the UK to take up a lectureship at the University of Durham. In the autumn of 2001 I moved to the Dyson Perrins Laboratory, University of Oxford and received a fellowship at Pembroke College, Oxford. I was promoted to Full Professor in 2005 and in late 2019 he became the Science Director for Next Generation Chemistry at the Rosalind Franklin Institute.

My group's research centres on the chemical understanding and exploitation of biomolecular function (Synthetic Biology, Chemical Biology and Chemical Medicine), with an emphasis on carbohydrates and proteins. In particular, the group's interests encompass synthesis and methodology; target biomolecule synthesis; inhibitor/probe/substrate design; biocatalysis; enzyme & biomolecule mechanism; biosynthetic pathway determination; protein engineering; drug delivery; molecular biology; structural biology; cell biology; glycobiology; molecular imaging and in vivoi biology.

I sit (have sat) on the Editorial / Editorial Advisory Boards of Carbohydrate Research (2005-2012), Chemical Biology and Drug Design (2006-), Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry (2006-2011), the Biochemical Journal (Advisory Board 2002-2005, Editorial Board 2009-2016), Chemical Science (2010-2012, 2015-) and ChemBioChem (2011-).

I was the Editor-in-Chief of Bioorganic Chemistry (2011-2013), Editor-in-Chief of Current Opinion in Chemical Biology (2011-2019) and an Associate Editor of Chemical Science (2012-14) and am curently a Senior Editor for ACS Central Science (2014-).

In 2005 I was elected the UK representative and Secretary (2005-2013) of the European Carbohydrate Organisation and from 2011-2014 the President of the RSC Chemical Biology Division.

I was/am co-founder of Glycoform, a biotechnology company that from 2002-2011 investigated the therapeutic potential of synthetic glycoproteins; of Oxford Contrast, a company investigating the use of molecular imaging for brain disease; of SugaROx, a company that uses bond-breaking methods in plants to control and stimulate plant growth and productivity and of Scindo, a cleantech company started by former DPhil student Gustaf Hemberg that is harnessing the power of enzymes to recycle the unrecyclables. In 2003 I was named among the top young innovators in the world by Technology Review, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)'s magazine of innovation in the TR35 awards and was a finalist in the BBSRC Innovator of the Year competition in 2010.

I was elected to the Royal Society in 2015

For more information about the group, click here