Author: Media & Communication: Faculty of Science

Leon Dicks_bannerProf Leon Dicks, distinguished professor from Stellenbosch University’s Department of Microbiology, is the winner of the Havenga prize for life sciences, awarded by the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns.

The prize is awarded annually for original research in the natural sciences and/or technology and can be awarded only once to the same individual.

Prof Dicks received the award for his research on antimicrobial peptides and the probiotic properties of lactic acid bacteria. To date he has already described 15 new species of lactic acid bacteria and 12 new novel antimicrobial peptides (bacteriocins). He is the first South African to publish ten chapters in Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology, a guide for bacterial classification and identification, and The Prokaryotes, a comprehensive overview of the taxonomy and physiology of bacteria (specifically lactic acid bacteria).

His group was the first to incorporate the antimicrobial peptides of lactic acid bacteria in nanofibers and patented a nanofiber wound dressing with antimicrobial properties. Prof Dicks is well known for the development of the probiotic entiroTM. It has been patented in 65 countries and appeared on the South African market in 2013.

Prof Dicks says, as a scientist, the award serves as a wake-up call to tackle even more challenging issues: “It is always nice to receive recognition for one’s work. I am deeply grateful towards the Academy for the award and that I have received so many blessings, but I also realise that there is still a lot to be done!”

He has a B1 rating from the National Research Foundation and boasts with an H-factor of 36, which places him among the leaders in his field.

SU researchers who also received Academy awards are Prof Lizette Rabie (Stals prize for Communication Studies and Journalism) and Prof Leslie Swartz (Stals prize for Psychology).

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