Paul M. Nurse was awarded the Dr H.P. Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics 1996 for his exceptional scientific research, which forms the basis of our current knowledge on the regulation of the division of eukaryotic cells and the molecular components and mechanisms involved.
For a researcher of his age, Dr Nurse can boast an exceptionally large number of publications in prominent international scientific journals. Consequently, he has had considerable influence on other scientists, and not only in the field of the cell division cycle, where research has expanded enormously and great progress has been made in fathoming the cell division mechanism. The results of his research have also provided the pieces so that in other fields, such as oncology and DNA repair, various components could be fitted together to complete the puzzle. This has resulted in considerable insight into the transformation of healthy cells into harmful cells.
Pioneer research in the seventies into the simple eukaryotic yeast cell, Schizosaccharomyces Pombe (S. Pombe), led to the discovery of the so‑called cdc2‑gene whose protein production plays an important part in the G1 and G2/M stages of cell division. In subsequent years, Dr Nurse discovered large numbers of genes and proteins/enzymes which carry out a regulatory function during the various stages of cell division.
Dr Nurse is to be strongly commended for his application of the results of this relatively isolated research into S. Pombe to higher mammals and, subsequently, to humans. By means of excellent recombinant DNA research, Dr. Nurse demonstrated the irrefutable existence of a human variant of cdc2, and that the cell division cycle of all things from yeast to humans, as well as the necessary proteins and genes, show great similarities. In the late eighties, the human variant, cdkl, was isolated.
Paul Maxime Nurse was born in the United Kingdom in 1949 and obtained the B.Sc. degree from the University of Birmingham in Biological Sciences. In 1973 he received the Ph.D. degree from the University of East Anglia in Cell Biology/Biochemistry. He was Director of Laboratory Research at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) in London. Since 2003 he is president of The Rockefeller University in New York, USA. Dr Nurse is a fellow of the Royal Society, a member of Academia Europaea and a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. He has won many prizes and awards for his scientific work and has given numerous award lectures. In 2001 he won the Nobel Prize in Medicine, together with Leland H. Hartwell and Tim Hunt.