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Sir Paul Nurse

Nobel Prize-winning geneticist

Sir Paul Nurse was born in 1949 in Norwich and grew up in North West London. He received his BSc degree in biology from the University of Birmingham before obtaining a PhD from the University of East Anglia for research on Candida utilis.

Whilst continuing his postdoctoral research at the University of Edinburgh, Nurse identified the gene cdc2 in fission yeast – the gene controlling the progression of the cell cycle from G1 (growth) phase to S (synthesis) and the transition from G2 (growth) phase to mitosis. In 2987, Nurse identified the homologous gene in human, Cdk1, which codes for a cyclin dependent kinase.

In 1984, he joined the Imperial Cancer Fund (now known as Cancer Research UK), returning to the organisation in 1993 as Director of Research, and later Director General. In 2003, he became president of Rockefeller University in New York City where he continued work on the cell cycle of fission yeast. In 2001, Nurse became the first Director and Chief Executive of the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation, now known as the Francis Crick Institute. Nurse was also the President of the Royal Society from 2010-2015.

Nurse has received numerous awards and honours including the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001 for his discovery of protein molecules that control the division of cells in the cell cycle, along with Leland Hartwell and Tim Hunt. He was knighted by the queen in 1999 and in 2002 was also awarded France’s highest honour, the Legion of Honour.

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