Swansea University genetics expert inspires Wales

A Swansea University lecturer, research scientist and developer of new technologies in Genetic Toxicology has fought off tough competition to reach the final of the IWA Inspire Wales Awards.

Dr George Johnson, Senior Lecturer in Genetics and member of the DNA Damage Research and the Genetics and Biochemistry teaching groups, within the Institute of Life Sciences, has been selected as one of three finalists in the Science and Technology category of the awards.

To reach the final of the awards is a fantastic achievement as IWA, organisers of the awards, have said that the quantity and quality of entries into this category have been unbelievably high this year.  This achievement is emphasised through the calibre of last year’s winner, Professor Anthony Campbell of the Cardiff University Welsh School of Pharmacy.

Dr George Johnson smaller

Dr Johnson said: “ I was honoured to be nominated by the University for this prestigious award, and getting to the final was an unexpected bonus. I have a lot of interest in enthusing students and researchers in to becoming the best they can be. It is important to me that students realize what a great feeling it is to enjoy your job and if you have an interest in science and technology then the World is yours”.

Swansea University is globally renowned for Genetic Toxicology and Dr Johnson, along with colleagues from the DNA damage research group, is busy investigating the mechanisms and detailed effects of carcinogens while still tackling industrial issues and addressing and advising on government safety perspectives.

Dr Johnson is currently working with government agencies from the US, the Netherlands and Canada as well as consultants and leading academics from New York Medical College and St George’s University of London, keeping the University’s research known on the global platform and highlighting the scientific and technological excellence in Swansea and Wales. This work mainly focuses on determining safe levels of carcinogens, and Dr Johnson and the DNA damage group have long been a leading force in this area. 

George has always been interested in cancer research and believes that reducing human exposure to carcinogens in food, pharmaceuticals, work and home environments can greatly reduce our risk of cancer. This expertise in carcinogenicity testing has lead Prof. Gareth Jenkins (PI), Dr. Shareen Doak and George to winning a grant from the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs). Where the group are developing a potential replacement for the 2 year rodent cancer test using cell lines and new technologies developed by GE Healthcare (Cardiff, Wales).

Along with all his other achievements George has also implemented an industrial placement degree scheme for Genetics and Medical Genetics graduates and had three successful placements at Glaxo-SmithKline (GSK) with another starting next academic year. This has also lead to an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) – GSK case award for one of the students, Ben Rees, who has already presented his work at two international conferences. George has also been invited to represent the University at over 20  international conferences and meetings, and often finds that he is the only person on the platform under the age of 50!

The Science and Technology category, Sponsored by Western Power Distribution, recognises the contribution of science, technology, mathematics and engineering related activities in manufacturing and industry, academia or the public sector. This category provides entrants with an opportunity to demonstrate how their activities have benefited their respective fields or provided more general benefit for Wales.