World-leading expert on the role of free radicals and antioxidants, NUS Tan Chin Tuan Centennial Professor Barry Halliwell has once again received confirmation of his good work. He will be presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine (SFRBM) in the US in November. The Award recognises his major overall contributions to the field of free radical biology and medicine.
Prof Halliwell, who is NUS Deputy President (Research & Technology) and Director, NUS Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Engineering, was ranked top worldwide in free radical research by the Ion Channel Media Group last year based on citations of his work. The Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) has also listed him as a highly cited scientist in both Biology/Biochemistry and in Agricultural Sciences (for work on plant antioxidants).
He began his work in 1976 by elucidating a key antioxidant defence mechanism (the ascorbate-glutathione cycle, now often called the Halliwell-Foyer-Asada cycle) that is used by plants to remove peroxides and protect the chloroplast against damage. He was also a pioneer in elucidating the role of metal ions in catalysing free radical reactions in vitro as well as in vivo. His work has helped shed light on the role of metal ions in diseases such as cardiac damage, cancer, thalassaemia and the problems of premature babies. His recent studies on atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) together with Professor Frank Watt at NUS underscore the deleterious role of iron as well as the effects of zinc as a powerful anti-atherosclerotic agent. An intervention trial is now underway to test such effects of zinc in humans.
Prof Halliwell has also contributed significantly to areas such as molecular nutrition and neurodegenerative disease. Using the methods he established to measure free radical damage in human tissues, he delineated the pattern of such damage in human brain material from patients with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. “This helped to identify the damaging free radical species in vivo, and reveal free radical damage to be a major contributor to these diseases” explained Prof Halliwell.
His techniques for characterising antioxidants in vitro and examining their effects in cells and in vivo are now widely used. Prof Halliwell also contributed significantly to fundamental studies of the mechanisms by which oxidising air pollutants can interact with human tissues.
Prof Halliwell has published over 300 original papers in leading international journals. His textbook Free Radicals in Biology and Medicine is now in its fourth edition (published in Jan 2008 by Oxford University Press). It is used worldwide and regarded by many as the “bible” in the field. – Knowledge Enterprise