Prof Ian Charles has been awarded his OBE for Services to science and clinical research during a distinguished career in the biomedical sector. An internationally recognised academic scientist, entrepreneur and business leader, Ian has more than 30 years’ experience in academic and commercial research with a focus on infectious diseases, the microbiome, and its impact on health and wellbeing, genomics and metagenomics.
Prof Charles is Director of the Quadram Institute on the Norwich Research Park (NRP), which he has led over the past eight years to become a highly reputed centre for health science research. Recently awarded £55.9m in a five-year investment by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UKRI, the Quadram Institute is a unique partnership between Quadram Institute Bioscience, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the University of East Anglia (UEA) and BBSRC.
The Quadram Institute combines clinical research, NHS endoscopy and cutting-edge research into human health, the gut microbiome, food safety and innovation. The Quadram Institute was a member of the COG-UK Covid sequencing programme, and the institute was formally opened in February 2023 by the then UK Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.
Prior to his role as Director of the Quadram Institute, Prof Charles was founding Director of the ithree institute, University of Technology, Sydney. His academic career has included being a founding member of The Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research at University College London, one of the UK’s first institutes of translational medicine. He has also worked in industry, including at pharmaceutical companies Wellcome and Glaxo Wellcome (now GSK) where his discoveries contributed to the development of an acellular whooping cough vaccine, now routinely used to protect children from pertussis infections.
During his career Prof Charles has produced over 200 publications, including peer-reviewed papers and patent filings, including Intellectual property that has underpinned the foundation of three biotech companies. Two of these focused on drug discovery targeting infectious diseases, namely UK-based Auspherix and Arrow Therapeutics, the latter of which was sold to AstraZeneca. Most recently he was co-founder and Director of venture backed Longas Technologies, an Australian-based long-read DNA sequencing technology company.
Prof Ian Charles said: “I’m delighted and humbled to receive this honour which reflects not only the impact of my own career in science but also the contributions of colleagues and collaborators over the years, and now the wider team at the Quadram Institute.
“I am entrepreneurial in outlook, highly inventive in my thinking and passionate about the translation and commercialisation of science into novel products and technologies. What we have delivered at the Quadram Institute underlines how excellence in fundamental science and clinical research can result in societal and commercial benefits by understanding the complex drivers in both the academic, healthcare and business sectors.”
Science Minister and Mid-Norfolk MP, George Freeman, said: “Ian’s work here in Norfolk has helped establish the Quadram Institute as a globally recognised centre for health science research. I am delighted to see him receive this recognition and I look forward to continuing my work with him and other partners at the NRP as this magnificent hub of science, research and innovation continues to lead the way in the pioneering work that will shape our world for the better.”
Dr Celia Caulcott, Chair of the Quadram Institute’s Board of Trustees, said: “This recognition for Ian in the King’s Birthday Honours is richly deserved. Ian has successfully led the establishment of an innovative new research institute in Norwich, and the Quadram Institute partnership has delivered major benefits for the health of people in the UK and across the globe through the pandemic.
“The Quadram is a young institute but is already making a global impact, attracting international scientific talent, and is focused on delivering healthier lives through collaborative clinical research into human health, food and the gut microbiome.”
Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair of BBSRC, said: “This honour recognises Ian’s inspiring and sustained leadership of health-related research, innovation and entrepreneurship – he is a hugely deserving recipient.
“I have witnessed first-hand how, as Director of the Quadram Institute, Ian has established a vibrant new Institute, with an inclusive and entrepreneurial outlook at its core. Through Ian’s leadership, strategic research spanning food and health has been reinvigorated, delivering widespread benefits to human health and wellbeing.”
Professor David Maguire, Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, said: “This is wonderful news and recognises Ian’s dedication to health research and to delivering life-changing impact.”
Sam Higginson, Chief Executive of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “Congratulations to Prof Charles for this much-deserved honour. Ian has been instrumental in the development of the Quadram Institute and our special partnership at Norwich Research Park to apply research and innovation to deliver the best possible patient care.”