6th Rodney Porter Memorial Lecture

Prof. Sir Paul Nurse, FRS
(Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK)

Paul Nurse became Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK in August 2002 (previously Interim Chief Executive and Director-General (Science)) on merger of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund with The Cancer Research Campaign in February 2002. From 1996 until February 2002, he was Director General of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, prior to that time having served for three years as Director of Research (Laboratories). He also Heads the Cell Cycle Laboratory at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, a research group which studies the genes that prompt cells to divide. This work has greatly enhanced our understanding of the nature of cancer cells, and how they grow. He is probably best known for his contribution to the discovery of the mechanism which controls cell division in most living organisms. He intends to stand down as Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK in November 2003 to take up the post of President of Rockefeller University in New York.

Paul Nurse was born in Norfolk, England in 1949 and was educated at the Universities of Birmingham (BSc 1970) and East Anglia (PhD in Cell Biology 1973). He has been a research fellow and professor at several other universities including Bern, Edinburgh, Sussex and Oxford. In 1989 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, in 1995 a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences and in 1999 an Honorary Member of the Royal College of Physicians.

He has been honoured with awards and medals by numerous institutions in recognition of his contributions to medical research. In 1997 he received the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation Alfred P. Sloan Jr Prize and Medal, and in 1998 he shared the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research. Working with fission yeast, he discovered a gene which controls the process of cell division, and he was also the first to succeed in demonstrating its human counterpart, so illustrating the universal nature of this mechanism and its profound implications for the field of cancer research. In 2001, Paul Nurse was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine together with his colleagues Tim Hunt and American scientist Lee Hartwell.

He has served on many national committees and is presently a member of the Council for Science and Technology, which advises the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. He is also a member of the international Advisory Boards of the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, ISREC in Lausanne, Switzerland and a member of the Scientific Council of the Institut Curie in Paris. He is the author of many scientific papers, and has been on the editorial board of several journals including Cell.

In 1999 Paul Nurse received a Knighthood for services to cancer research and cell biology. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Oxford.