The Rayleigh Award recognises importance of antimicrobial peptides as new antibiotics

LCN researcher Alice Pyne and four other researchers from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), have been awarded the National Physical Laboratory’s 2014 Rayleigh Award for their work evaluating the efficacy of antimicrobial peptides as new antibiotics. 

The Rayleigh Award aims to recognise science, excellence and impact by scientists at the NPL and this year was presented to the authors of the paper ‘Nanoscale imaging reveals laterally expanding antimicrobial pores in lipid bilayers’1 including Alice who was jointly supervised in her PhD by UCL and the NPL.

There is an urgent need to develop new antibiotics to address the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance due to conventional antibiotics no longer being able to treat a large number of infections. Research is being carried out at the NPL to evaluate the feasibility of designing novel antibiotics with pre-defined characteristics, which may be more effective at treating disease. 

This work reveals a dynamic process whereby peptides form tiny pores, only a few nanometres across, which subsequently expand until they eventually reach the point of complete membrane disintegration; a new mechanism of action. The paper was recognised for the challenging measurements at the frontiers of its field, including secondary ion mass spectrometry and scanning probe microscopy of a dynamic process in liquid, which was carried out by Alice at the LCN in Dr Bart Hoogenboom’s group. 


Rakowska, P. D. et al. ‘Nanoscale imaging reveals laterally expanding antimicrobial pores in lipid bilayers’ Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 110, 8918–8923 (2013)