The Queen presents award to Aberystwyth University for parasite research

Aberystwyth University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jon Timmis receiving the award from Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace

Aberystwyth University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jon Timmis receiving the award from Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace

22 February 2024

Queen Camilla has presented a prestigious award to Aberystwyth University for its pioneering parasitology work at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace today (Thursday, 22 February).

The royal honour recognises the work of scientists at the University’s Department of Life Sciences who specialise in a particular group of parasitic flatworms which cause devastating diseases such as Schistosomiasis in people and Fasciolosis in livestock.

Schistosomiasis is a tropical disease usually spread through contact with contaminated fresh water, killing an estimated 12,000 people and infecting more than 200 million individuals every year.

Fasciolosis affects more than 300 million cattle and 250 million sheep world-wide, at a cost of over £2.5 billion a year to the agriculture industry.

Awarded every two years as part of the British Honours system, the Queen’s Anniversary Prizes celebrate excellence and innovation and recognise outstanding work that delivers benefit to the wider world.  

They are run by the Royal Anniversary Trust and are the highest Honour awarded to further and higher education institutions in the UK.

Speaking after receiving the award from The Queen at Buckingham Palace, Aberystwyth University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jon Timmis, said:

“It was a great honour to receive the prize from Her Majesty The Queen on behalf of the University. I am so proud that the pioneering work by our scientists is being recognised in this way. It underlines once again the importance of the world-leading research that’s undertaken here in Aberystwyth.

“Our academics have been studying these parasites for more than a century, analysing their complex lifecycles and host interactions to an unprecedented level of detail and identifying vulnerabilities which can be targeted by new vaccines or drugs. I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to all those involved in this research, both past and present.”

The prize winners were also praised by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who wrote:

“I want to say a huge congratulations to the winners of the 2022-2024 Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education. I know this year’s Honours will be particularly special as we remember the late Queen Elizabeth II and her long-standing support for these awards, and for the tremendous good that education can bring.

“As your work shows, there is some extraordinary work taking place in British colleges and universities today – and it is being conducted in a spirit of inquiry, public good and a quest for knowledge. So let me thank all the Queen’s Anniversary Prize winners for everything you are doing.”

Also attending the ceremony in Buckingham Palace was Professor Karl Hoffmann, Director of the Barrett Centre for Helminth Control at Aberystwyth University along with several of his fellow researchers. Professor Hoffmann added:

“It is a tremendously rewarding for the team here in Aberystwyth to have received such a prestigious award. Parasitic worms cause some of the most disfiguring, debilitating and chronic infectious diseases of human and animal populations across the globe. They kill thousands of people and animals annually, and lead to the suffering of millions more. They also threaten food and crop security and create substantial economic losses.

“This ceremony and prize are a tribute to all the parasitologists who have created a centre of excellence in Aberystwyth. Their work plays a pivotal role in ongoing international efforts to control parasitic flatworm diseases and mitigate their devastating consequences on human and animal health as well as food production globally.”

Sir Damon Buffini, Chair of Royal Anniversary Trust said:

“The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education are an integral part of our national Honours system, shining a light on the groundbreaking work taking place in universities and colleges across the UK. All 22 Prize-winners demonstrate excellence, innovation and impact, with many tackling some of the toughest problems we as a society face today. They are to be commended for reaching this pinnacle of achievement in the tertiary education sector. Congratulations!”

The Queen’s Anniversary Prize was also awarded to Aberystwyth University in 2009 in recognition of its innovative and high-impact crop and plant-breeding research.