By Bill Griffith

Chemical Landmark Plaque for the Glucose Sensor, Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford, Monday 16 July 2012

Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, University of Oxford

Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, University of Oxford by Luca Borghi. Image licensed via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

This plaque commemorates the development, starting in the early 1980s, of an enzyme electrode for detecting glucose. The original paper described a ferrocene-mediated electrode for the analysis of glucose which was usable in whole undiluted blood, and had obvious potential for the sensing of sugar levels in diabetic patients. This original work was extended (principally by Hill, Cass and Davis) and later patented, and the resulting electrode system has saved the lives of many diabetic patients by the simple, reliable detection of sugar levels in the blood. Currently less than 1 µl of blood is needed in a painless straightforward procedure which allows patients to monitor their own blood sugar levels.

The unveiling ceremony began with a welcome and introduction by Professor Peter Edwards FRS, the head of inorganic chemistry at Oxford. Allen Hill FRS then reminisced about early work on the electrode leading to the first paper on it. Tony Cass spoke on “sensors today”: blood sensors are still of prime importance for glucose measurement but now also give an instant blood profile, e.g. for pregnancy and other conditions. Professor Fraser Armstrong spoke on “Looking to the future”; Dr Robert Parker, the Chief Executive of the RSC, spoke on the RSC Chemical Landmarks scheme, and the plaque was then unveiled by the three principal investigators of the original work, Allen Hill, Tony Cass and Graham Davis. Final comments were made by Pete Edwards and a reception for the large audience followed.

The plaque reads:

Glucose Sensor In this laboratory on 20 July 1982, Allen Hill, Tony Cass and Graham Davis made the crucial discovery which led to the development of a unique electronic blood glucose sensor now used by millions of diabetics worldwide.
16 July 2012

1. A.E.G. Cass, G. Davis, G.D. Francis, H.A.O. Hill, W.J. Aston, I.J. Higgins, E.V. Plotkin, L.D.L. Scott & A.P. Turner, “Ferrocene-Mediated Enzyme Electrode for Amperometric Determination of Glucose”, Analyt. Chem. 1984, 56, 667-671.