2023 Economic Impact Award Winner: Professor Neil Hunt and team
14 Feb 2024



For their work developing a patented new high speed analytical method using Ultra at the CLF, Professor Neil Hunt and his team at the University of York have been awarded the 2023 CLF Economic Impact Award.

Profile shot of Neil Hunt, Image credit: University of York

​​​Prof Neil Hunt

Image credit: University of York

​The aim of the Economic Impact Award is to highlight research that can demonstrate the potential for, or that has led to, significant economic impact in the UK and/or internationally. This impact could be via (but is not limited to):

  • An innovation; for example a patent, spin-out, or licensing of research
  • Creation of a new innovative technique/technology
  • Improvement of products or services.

Professor Neil Hunt (University of York) ​and his team won the award for 2023 CLF Economic Impact for developing a novel method that uses 2D-IR to see protein structures in their natural environments and analyse protein mixtures in biofluids, which will prove useful for drug design and diagnostics. Prior to the development of this method, protein IR spectroscopy had to be carried out using heavy water (D2O). This meant that proteins could not be studied in their natural solvent, and severely limited the potential applications of 2D-IR in the pharmaceutical or biomedical sectors due to the inability to use deuterated samples or the associated excessive costs.

By using 2D-IR at the CLF's Ultra facility, Professor Hunt and his team developed a new high speed analytical method, which enables protein structure and dynamics to be measured in both physiologically relevant laboratory prepared samples, and samples obtained in vivo. Additionally, the method is able to measure 2D-IR spectra in less than a minute, making high-throughput 2D-IR a viable analytical method, which is highly impactful for large-scale research and industrial applicatio​ns.

Due to this work, the University of York has been awarded EPSRC Strategic Equipment Funding to construct a new 2D-IR spectrometer dedicated to high-throughput applications. They credit this success to many years of STFC-funded access time, and the new instrument will build on the template established by the LIFEtime spectrometer at Ultra that enabled the proof-of-concept work to be completed and helped the team to get to where they are today.

Find out more about the CLF User Impact Awards.

Contact: Towrie, Helen (STFC,RAL,CLF)