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Professor Barry V L Potter MA DPhil DSc FRSB FRSC MAE FMedSci: oration

Read Professor Stephen Ward's oration on Professor Barry V L Potter MA DPhil DSc FRSB FRSC MAE FMedSci for the honorary degree of Doctor of Science in June 2022


Photograph of Professor Barry Potter receiving his honorary degree
Professor Barry V L Potter MA DPhil DSc (Oxon) CSci FIoD CBiol FRSB CChem FRSC MAE FMedSci

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Potter has made internationally recognised contributions as an academic to the fields of medicinal chemistry and chemical biology through original research, teaching and leadership. As well as a notable record in the published literature he has also pioneered examples of “first-in-class” drug discovery, including both new target identification and the design of agents that have entered clinical trials in multiple pathologies. These have demonstrated clinical benefit, particularly in oncology and endocrinology. As an entrepreneur he has also translated these to the pharmaceutical industry.

Professor Potter studied chemistry as an undergraduate at Oxford University and also completed his D.Phil at Oxford. After postdoctoral research at Oxford and later in molecular biology at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen, Germany, he became Lecturer in Biological Chemistry at Leicester University in 1984. There he was awarded a prestigious Lister Fellowship in 1987 for work on the chemistry of cellular signalling and RNA splicing mechanisms. In 1990 he was appointed to the Chair of Medicinal Chemistry at the School of Pharmacy & Pharmacology at Bath. As Head of Medicinal Chemistry he built up and led the Section for over 25 years, establishing one of the best-funded and strongest overall UK academic medicinal chemistry groups. He has personally mentored more than 80 post-doctoral researchers and 40 graduate students. In 2015 he moved to the University of Oxford as Professor of Medicinal & Biological Chemistry.

Barry has published over 700 research articles exemplifying the application of chemistry to biological problems, drug discovery and medicine across a wide spectrum with over 20,000 citations to his work, placing him in the top 1% of medicinal chemists worldwide. He is also a co-inventor on 46 patent families from over 700 worldwide filings, exemplifying the translational potential of his work. He has delivered many invited, plenary and keynote lectures at international conferences. He has served on numerous international and editorial boards, major grant awarding panels, charities and scientific advisory boards, including UK Research Councils, RAE/REF panels, the Wellcome Trust, and the Lister Institute.

His research is at the interfaces of chemistry with biology and medicine. Barry’s group has synthesized and developed numerous structurally-modified molecules, finding widespread use as pharmacological tools to unravel the biology of cellular signalling, with many compounds commercially marketed. He has also championed a new therapeutic target, steroid sulfatase, and its inhibition via drugs designed at Bath, bringing such drugs from novel therapeutic concepts to nineteen Phase I and II human clinical trials, with evidence of clinical benefit in cancer patients, notably in women’s health. His drugs have entered international clinical trials in breast cancer, prostate cancer, endometrial cancer and endometriosis, as well as in hormone replacement therapy.

Barry co-founded the university spin-out company Sterix Ltd that was subsequently acquired by a large pharmaceutical company. At its peak the company had around 40 staff. After acquisition, the established discovery and development work continued via an innovative academic-industry partnership that generated over £10M to the University of Bath, with Sterix returning overall around £26M in direct grant funding to the UK university sector. A further spin-out was also established to progress work from Bath. At Bath, Barry raised more than £23M in external research grant support, including three 5-year Programme Grants from the Wellcome Trust and in 2013 became one of the first prestigious Wellcome Trust Senior Investigators. He has also won major awards for his work, both academic and industrial, including four Royal Society of Chemistry medals for interdisciplinary research and the GlaxoSmithKline International Achievement Award and was elected to major UK and European academies.

Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Professor Barry Potter, who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.


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