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2 July 2009

Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, Kt, FRS

The University of Leicester has conferred a Distinguished Honorary Fellowships on Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys. This is the highest accolade the University can award.

Sir Alec, a member of the Biochemical Society, is Royal Society Wolfson Research Professor at the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester. He has made many notable contributions to human genetics, but is best known for his development of genetic fingerprinting. Twenty-five years ago, he accidentally discovered a method for identifying individuals from their DNA and showed how these DNA fingerprints could be used not only for biological identification but also for establishing family relationships.

He then showed how this technology could be applied to real casework, using DNA to solve the first immigration paternity and criminal cases and creating the entirely new field of forensic DNA. The impact of DNA identification on civil and criminal investigations has been extraordinary and has now touched directly the lives of many millions of people worldwide, reuniting families, identifying the guilty and exculpating the innocent.

His work has received widespread recognition, including a knighthood, election to the Royal Society and the receipt of numerous scientific awards, the most notable being the Louis-Jeantet, Heineken and Lasker Prizes. He has also received widespread public recognition, including election as an Honorary Freeman of the City of Leicester and winning the Morgan Stanley Great Briton 2006 title.

Sir Alec remains very much an active research scientist, greatly enjoying his exploration of human DNA variation and the processes that make us all genetically unique.

“I am absolutely delighted to receive a Distinguished Honorary Fellowship from the University of Leicester”, he said, “especially on the 25th anniversary of genetic fingerprinting. This is a great honour and will give much pleasure, not only to myself, but also to the countless colleagues over the years who helped transform a crazy academic dream of DNA identification into a remarkable technology that has had such a dramatic impact on society worldwide. I am especially proud of the fact that DNA fingerprinting will forever be associated with the City of Leicester and in particular with the University that played such a crucial role by giving me the academic freedom to follow my scientific nose on an exploration that led directly to DNA fingerprinting.”

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