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Sir Paul M. Nurse, PhD, FRS

President Emeritus, The Rockefeller University
New York, New York
Director and CEO, The Francis Crick Institute
London, United Kingdom

Current Research

  • Seeking to understand genes that affect cell growth to generate novel insights into how cancer forms.
  • Laboratory studies are conducted to identify genes that when altered cause uncontrolled cell growth and to develop new chemical compounds as potential new therapies to block cancer growth.
  • By studying growth in normal cells, this research will provide new clues to the processes that become dysregulated in cancer and inform the development of new therapies.

Breast cancer cells start out as normal breast cells. Changes to genes allow normal breast cells to ignore the usual signals and to grow out of control. By studying normal processes and what goes wrong in cancer, we can learn how to prevent and treat breast cancer. Dr. Nurse is conducting a series of laboratory studies focused on identifying the genes that control cancer-related processes so that new drugs can be developed to prevent or treat breast cancer.

Full Research Summary

Dr. Nurse's laboratory conducts basic discovery research focused on understanding key processes in cancer growth. His team is conducting studies to identify genes that can cause uncontrolled cell growth and determine how alterations in these genes can influence cancer-related processes, particularly those that affect the overall growth of a tumor and its spread through the human body. This search is expected to reveal novel genes that control cellular growth.

Coupled to this, they are conducting studies to identify new chemical compounds that inhibit or alter the gene functions involved in these processes. These chemicals, which can be artificially synthesized or made naturally using bacteria, will be useful for investigating the processes and for the development of possible new treatments.

In the coming year, the team will work to identify new drugs that target a component of the cell called microtubules. Microtubules form a scaffold in the cell and regulate the cell’s shape. Targeting microtubules with drugs is likely to block cell reproduction.  

Collectively, these projects are helping us to understand key steps required for normal cells to properly reproduce themselves, a process that is crucially important for understanding cancer.


Paul Nurse, who shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was president of The Rockefeller University from 2003 to 2011.

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.

Dr. Nurse earned a PhD at the University of East Anglia. He joined the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) in 1984, and in 1988 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 CEO of Cancer Research UK, which he formed by merging ICRF with the Cancer Research Campaign. Today at Rockefeller, he is president emeritus and a professor heading the Laboratory of Yeast Genetics and Cell Biology.

Dr. Nurse served as president of the Royal Society and is currently director and CEO of The Francis Crick Institute. He is a fellow of the Royal Society, a founding member of the U.K. Academy of Medical Sciences, and a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. In addition to the Nobel Prize, he has received numerous other awards and honors. Dr. Nurse was knighted in 1999, and in 2002 he was awarded France's Légion d’Honneur.

Grid Researcher Headshot - Nurse P

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Sir Elton John Award

Area(s) of Focus