Bringing Structure to Biology
Congratulations to Olga Kennard on the award of the Ewald Prize
On behalf of EMBL and PDBe, we would like to offer our warmest congratulations to Dr Olga Kennard OBE FRS on the award of the 12th Ewald Prize by the International Union of Crystallography.
This award was made in recognition of “her invaluable pioneering contribution to the development of crystallographic databases, in particular the Cambridge Structural Database (CSD), which as she early foresaw, has led […] to the discovery of new knowledge which transcends the results of individual experiment[s]”.
Olga is renowned for establishing the CCDC (Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre) to maintain the Cambridge Structural Database (CSD) for small molecules. The CSD was first established by Olga in 1965, based on activities in her research group and has become the world’s repository for small-molecule organic and metal-organic crystal structures. Olga collected these data so that she could study how crystals form and her surveys were fundamental in the development of “crystal engineering”. Now containing over one million structures from X-ray and neutron diffraction analyses, this database of accurate 3D structures has become an essential resource to scientists around the world.
The CSD was the forerunner of many of the biological databases run by EMBL today and indeed originally it was suggested that the CSD should also include biological molecules. This challenge was eventually taken up in the USA, encouraged by Olga, who was involved in founding the PDB. In addition, she supported the establishment of the original EMBL Nucleic Acid Database (now the ENA) at EMBL Heidelberg. Nowadays, the small molecules contained in biological structures archived in the PDB are validated using CCDC software which incorporates the knowledge embodied in the CSD.
Olga is a person of great integrity and drive and, in an age before computers had really developed, she saw the value of cross-data analysis to derive principles governing how small molecules interact. Very few scientists can claim that their work has enabled thousands of papers and investigations. Olga’s foresight and determination to establish and maintain the CSD means she is among those giants on whose shoulders many other scientists stand.