January 26, 2023

Nobel laureate Nurse set for year’s first Discovery Lecture

Nobel Prize-winning geneticist and cell biologist Sir Paul Nurse, PhD, will be at Vanderbilt Thursday, Feb. 9, to deliver the year’s first Discovery Lecture.

Sir Paul Nurse, PhD

Sir Paul Nurse, PhD, the Nobel Prize-winning geneticist and cell biologist whose work on cell cycle regulation has advanced the molecular understanding of cancer, will deliver this year’s first Discovery Lecture at 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, in 208 Light Hall.

Nurse’s lecture, titled “Controlling the Eukaryotic Cell Cycle,” is sponsored by the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics.

Beginning in the mid-1970s, Nurse used yeast as a model to study the cell cycle in eukaryotic cells. Unlike bacteria and other microorganisms, the eukaryotic cells of plants, animals and fungi contain nuclei and other complex structures enclosed within membranes.

His studies led to the discovery of a genetic “master switch” that regulated the timing of cell-cycle events, including cell division.

In 1987 Nurse isolated the corresponding gene in humans, which encodes a family of proteins called cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) that play important roles in cell division and transcription.

In 2001, Nurse was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Leland Hartwell, PhD, and Tim Hunt, PhD, for “key discoveries of the cell cycle.”

Other awards include the Albert Lasker Award, the Gairdner Award, and the Royal Society’s Royal and Copley Medals. Nurse was knighted in 1999, received the Legion d’honneur in 2003 from France, and the Order of the Rising Sun in 2018 from Japan.

Nurse is director of the Francis Crick Institute in London, chancellor of the University of Bristol, and has served as president of the Royal Society, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, and president of Rockefeller University.

He served for 15 years on the Council of Science and Technology, advising the British Prime Minister and Cabinet, and was a Chief Scientific Advisor for the European Union.

His book, “What is Life? Five Great Ideas in Biology,” published in 2021, explores the cell, the gene, evolution by natural selection, life as chemistry and life as information.

“Better understanding of the natural world not only enhances all of us as human beings,” Nurse wrote in his biographical sketch for the Nobel Prize, “but can also be harnessed for the better good, leading to improved health and quality of life.”

For a complete schedule of Discovery Lectures, archived video of previous lectures, and the livestream link, go to https://www.vumc.org/discovery-lecture-series/upcoming-lectures.