2023 FEMS-LWOFF Award for Achievements in Microbiology
The 2023 FEMS-Lwoff Award for Achievements in Microbiology has been awarded to Professor Kenneth Timmis of the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany. Kenneth Timmis was selected for the award for his contributions to the field of environmental microbiology and advocacy of microbiology literacy. He is the lead author of the paper ‘The urgent need for microbiology literacy in society’ and created and leads the International Microbiology Literacy Initiative, coining the phrase ‘Microbiology literacy needs to become part of the world citizen job description’.
Launched in 2000, the FEMS-Lwoff Award for Achievements in Microbiology rewards those that create high quality knowledge that helps to solve today’s societal problems around microbiology. It was named in honour of the 1st FEMS President (1974-1976), Professor André M. Lwoff.
The jury praised Timmis, not only as an absolutely excellent scientist, but also as a pioneer in the field of plasmids, environmental microbiology and microbial biotechnology. They also recognized Timmis' efforts in advocating for microbiology literacy. For example, his education initiative 'The Urgent need for Microbiology Literacy in Society' brought microbiology closer to society and has a wide impact. Other important initiatives around this topic are his article in Environmental Microbiology: 'Microbiology education and human stewardship of Planet Earth: the generational contract' and the initiative he supports and co-authored ‘Scientists Warning to Humanity: Microorganisms and Climate Change’ which also have a global impact. Timmis is a Fellow of the European Academy of Microbiology (EAM), the American Academy of Microbiology, the Royal Society, and Laureate of the Erwin Schrödinger Prize. He was Founding Editor of the very successful journal, Environmental Microbiology (Wiley) where he served as Editor-in-Chief for 25 years.
About Prof Timmis
Kenneth Timmis’ research focus has been environmental microbiology, microbial pathogenesis and vaccine development, and microbial biotechnology, mostly involving genetic approaches. He has designed and engineered bacterial metabolic strategies to remove environmental pollutants from contaminated soil and water. His early studies of microbial molecular genetics clarified how bacteria control reproduction of their genetic material in the form of plasmids. He went on to demonstrate the ‘minimal replicon’, the minimum set of genes needed for a plasmid to reproduce, a discovery central to the development of vectors for gene cloning and the creation of genetically altered bacteria for biotechnology. He pioneered the cloning of entire metabolic pathways and the design of novel biochemical pathways and microbes for bioremediation. Furthermore, he has made significant contributions to microbial ecology, especially in relation to soils and waters polluted with hydrocarbons and xenobiotics.
Timmis studied microbiology at Bristol University, undertook postdoctoral research training at the Ruhr University, Yale and Stanford, and headed research groups at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, the University of Geneva Medical Centre, the German National Research Centre for Biotechnology (later, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research) and the Technische Universität Braunschweig. Timmis is the Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief of three primary research journals, namely Environmental Microbiology, Environmental Microbiology Reports and Microbial Biotechnology. He is currently Emeritus Professor at the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany. He also actively engages in commercial and societal debates and will thus provide a link to key scientific, commercial, social and policy maker stakeholders.