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Paul M. Nurse

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Paul M. Nurse

Sir Paul Nurse
Paul Nurse
Born Paul Maxime Nurse
(1949-01-25) 25 January 1949 (age 65)
Norwich, Norfolk, England
Citizenship British
Nationality English
Fields Genetics/cell biology
Alma mater University of Birmingham
University of East Anglia
Thesis (1974)
Doctoral students Daniel Leslie Fisher[1]
Karim Labib[2]
Stuart Andrew MacNeill[3]
Alison Woollard[4]
Known for Cell cycle regulation; Cdk1
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2001
Copley Medal in 2005

Sir Paul Maxime Nurse, PRS, PhD (born 25 January 1949), is an English geneticist and cell biologist. He was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Leland H. Hartwell and R. Timothy Hunt for their discoveries of protein molecules that control the division (duplication) of cells in the cell cycle.[5]

When cells with nuclei divide, they divide in phases called G1 (growth), S (synthesis), G2 (growth), and M (mitosis). Nurse, Hartwell and Hunt together discovered two proteins, cyclin and CDK (cyclin dependent kinase), that control the transition from one stage to another. These proteins are called checkpoints, because they check whether the cell has divided properly. If the cell doesn't divide correctly, other proteins will attempt to repair it, and if unsuccessful, they will destroy the cell. If a cell divides incorrectly and survives, it can cause cancer and other serious diseases.[5]

Working in yeast, Nurse identified the gene cdc2, which controls the transition from G1 to S, when the cell grows in preparation for the duplication of DNA, and G2 to M, when the cell divides. Nurse also found the corresponding gene, CDK1, in humans. These genes stop and start cyclin dependent kinase (CDK) by adding or removing phosphate groups.[5]

Nurse is the current President of the Royal Society and Chief Executive and Director of the Francis Crick Institute.

Nurse believes that scientists should speak out about science in public affairs and challenge politicians who support policies based on pseudoscience.

Early life, education, and career

Nurse's mother went from London to Norwich, Norfolk and lived with relatives while awaiting Paul's birth in order to hide illegitimacy. His biological maternal grandmother pretended to be his mother while she was alive and his mother pretended to be his sister for her entire life too.[6][7] He was educated at Lyon Park school in Alperton and Harrow County School for Boys. He received his undergraduate degree in 1970 from the University of Birmingham and his PhD in 1973 from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia.[8] He continued his post-doctoral work at the laboratory of Murdoch Mitchison at the University of Edinburgh for the next six years (1973-1979).[9][10]

Beginning in 1976, Nurse identified the gene cdc2 in yeast[11][12] (Schizosaccharomyces pombe). This gene controls the progression of the cell cycle from G1 phase to S phase and the transition from G2 phase to mitosis. In 1987, Nurse identified the homologous gene in human, Cdk1, which codes for a cyclin dependent kinase.[13]

In 1984, Nurse joined the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF, now Cancer Research UK). He left in 1988 to chair the department of microbiology at the University of Oxford. He then returned to the ICRF as Director of Research in 1993, and in 1996 was named Director General of the ICRF, which became Cancer Research UK in 2002. In 2003, he became president of Rockefeller University in New York City where he continues to work on the cell cycle of fission yeast. It was announced on 15 July 2010 that Nurse was to become the first Director and Chief Executive of the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation.[14] He took up his post on 1 January 2011.

On 30 November 2010, Sir Paul succeeded Martin Rees as president of the Royal Society.

Political views

Nurse criticized the potential Republican candidates for the US presidential nomination for opposing the teaching of natural selection, stem cell research on cell lines from human embryos, and anthropogenic climate change; he blamed scientists in part for not speaking up.[15] He was alarmed that this could happen in the U.S., a world leader in science, "the home of Benjamin Franklin, Richard Feynman and Jim Watson."[15]

One problem, Nurse said, was "treating scientific discussion as if it were political debate," using rhetorical tricks rather than logic. Another problem was science teaching in the schools, which does not teach citizens how to discuss science, and is compromised by religious schools, even in the United Kingdom.[15]

"We need to emphasise why the scientific process is such a reliable generator of knowledge with its respect for evidence, for skepticism, for consistency of approach, for the constant testing of ideas," wrote Nurse.[15]

Finally, scientific leaders "have a responsibility to expose the bunkum," said Nurse. They should take on politicians, and expose nonsense during elections.[15]

Awards and honours

In addition to the Nobel Prize, Nurse has received numerous awards and honours. In 1989, he became a fellow of the Royal Society and in 1995 he received a Royal Medal and became a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 1998. Nurse was knighted in 1999. He was awarded the French Legion d'Honneur in 2002. He was also awarded the Copley Medal in 2005. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences - one of the top honours - in April 2006. He is a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering.[16] Dr. Nurse is the 2007 recipient of the Hope Funds Award of Excellence in Basic Research. In 2013, he became the winner of the Albert Einstein World Award of Science conferred by the World Cultural Council.[17]

Nurse has received many Honorary Degrees, including from the University of Bath in 2002, the University of Kent in 2012, and the University of Warwick (Doctor of Science) in 2013.[18]


Further reading

  • Les Prix Nobel. 2002. The Nobel Prizes 2001, Editor Tore Frängsmyr. Nobel Foundation: Stockholm.

External links

  • Sir Paul Nurse at autobiography
    • Sir Paul Nurse Curriculum vitae
  • Paul Nurse: Office of the President, Rockefeller University
    • The Rockefeller University, Heads of Laboratories: Paul Nurse, Ph.D.
  • BBC Four
  • Royal Society
  • Nature Medicine
  • Cancer Research UK
  • Sir Paul Maxime Nurse at Durham University
  • World Science Festival, 12 June 2009.
  • Template:Nndb
News media
  • British Scientists (inc. Sir Paul Nurse) scoop 2001 Nobel Prize
  • Sir Paul Nurse: Genetic identity cards for newborn children within 20 years
  • The Times Higher Education – Queen's Birthday Honours – Announcement of Paul Nurse becoming a Knight Bachelor
  • A film clip ]
  • A film clip ]
Lectures and publications
  • Internet Movie Database
  • PubMed
  • Sir Paul Nurse – Nobel Lecture: Controlling the Cell Cycle, 2001
  • CUNY, April 2010
  • Video about 'What Is Life?'

Academic offices
Preceded by
Arnold Levine
President of Rockefeller University
Succeeded by
Marc Tessier-Lavigne

Template:Copley Medallists 2001-2050

Template:Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Laureates 2001-2025 Template:Francis Crick Institute

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