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BCRF Grantee Since


Area(s) of Focus

Sir Paul M. Nurse, PhD, FRS

President Emeritus and Head of Laboratory
The Rockefeller University
New York, New York
The Royal Society, London

Current Research

Dr. Nurse’s laboratory investigates the basic processes that underlie the cellular basis of breast cancer. They examine such topics as how cell reproduction, cell shape, cell growth and genome stability are controlled, because these processes are important for understanding the development of cancer.

Dr. Nurse and colleagues have identified and described the majority of the fission yeast genes that are required for cells to reproduce themselves and to generate a proper cell shape, both relevant for cancer. They have also begun to describe the way the genome copies itself every time a cell reproduces itself.

Mid-Year Summary

Dr. Nurse’s laboratory has identified genes that influence the reproduction of cells when only one gene of the pair found in cells is defective. This is a common situation found during the formation of cancer. They have also shown that copying of the genome is started in randomly located regions of the chromosomes.


Paul Nurse, who shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was president of The Rockefeller University from 2003 to 2011. He had previously served as Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, the largest cancer research organization outside the United States.

Dr. Nurse is noted for discoveries about molecular mechanisms that regulate the cell cycle, the process by which a cell copies its genetic material and divides into two cells. His work, which is fundamental to understanding growth and development, is also vital to cancer research, because mistakes in the cell duplication process can contribute to the formation of tumors.

A graduate of Birmingham University in Great Britain, Dr. Nurse earned a PhD at the University of East Anglia. He joined the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) in 1984, and in 1988 he moved to Oxford University to chair the Microbiology Department. Dr. Nurse returned to the ICRF as director of research in 1993, and in 1996 he was appointed director general. In 2002, he became Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, which he formed by merging ICRF with the Cancer Research Campaign. Today at Rockefeller, Dr. Nurse is president emeritus and a professor heading the Laboratory of Yeast Genetics and Cell Biology.

Dr. Nurse also serves as president of the Royal Society and CEO of The Francis Crick Institute. He is a fellow of the Royal Society, a founding member of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences, and a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. In addition to the Nobel Prize, he has received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation's Alfred P. Sloan Prize, the Rosenstiel Award, the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Jeantet Prize, the Royal Society's Wellcome, Royal and Copley medals, and numerous other awards. Dr. Nurse was knighted in 1999, and in 2002 he was awarded France's Légion d'Honneur.