Diabetes test strip inventor honoured by Royal Society

The man behind the invention of diabetes blood glucose test strips is to be honoured by the Royal Society for his “outstanding achievements in applied sciences”.

Named as an inventor on about 70 patents, Professor Ian Shanks is responsible for inventing the kit that enabled self-monitoring of the condition.

He also played a significant role in pioneering LCD technology used in flat-screen TVs and computer displays.

Diabetes test strip
Diabetes test strip

The Royal Society has conferred upon the 72-year-old – who was educated at Dumbarton Academy and the University of Glasgow – the Royal Medal C, one of its most prestigious awards

He said: “This is a tremendous honour for me and one of the high points in what has been a rich and rewarding career.

“I feel both delighted and humbled to have received it.”

In 1982, Prof Shanks joined Unilever to initiate research into biosensors.

His work on capillary-fill methodology, which he carried out in his own time while working for Unilever, went on to be incorporated, under licence, in almost every diabetes test strip – a multibillion-pound market.

Prof Shanks carried out a 13-year legal battle against his former employer which ended in 2019.

The Supreme Court awarded him substantial compensation from the company as a share of its outstanding benefit from the licensing and sale of the capillary-fill patents.

It specified how the 1977 Patents Act should be interpreted in future, thus incentivising future employee inventors.

This was the first such award under the legislation.

In 1984, Prof Shanks was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society – at that time, at 35, the youngest person to be elected to the position.

He is one of the 25 Royal Society medals and awards winners announced on Tuesday.

Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, said: “The Royal Society’s medals and awards celebrate those researchers whose groundbreaking work has helped answer fundamental questions and advance our understanding of the world around us.

“They also champion those who have reinforced science’s place in society, whether through inspiring public engagement, improving our education system, or by making STEM careers more inclusive and rewarding.

“This year has highlighted how integral science is in our daily lives, and tackling the challenges we face, and it gives me great pleasure to congratulate all our winners and thank them for their work.”