Skip to main content

Paul Nurse to receive Friesen International Prize


Paul Nurse

Paul Nurse, president emeritus at Rockefeller, has been awarded the Henry G. Friesen International Prize in Health Research. A Canadian prize, established by the Friends of Canadian Institutes of Health Research in collaboration with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, the prize honors exceptional innovation by a visionary health leader of international stature. Nurse, a Nobel Prize laureate and head of the Laboratory of Yeast Genetics and Cell Biology, will accept the prize and deliver a lecture on December 7, 2015, in Ottawa.

Nurse is being honored as a pioneering scientist, science advocate, and policy maker who has had an important impact on science through excellence in research, leadership, and communication.

A geneticist and cell biologist, Nurse’s research focuses on the molecular machinery that controls cell division and cell shape, using fission yeast as a model system. Nurse identified cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) and its role regulating the cycle by which cells divide. This discovery has many implications within basic biology for the understanding cell reproduction, cell growth, and development. Because disruption of the cell cycle can lead to diseases, including cancer, it has significance for medicine as well as.

In addition to his scientific achievements, Nurse has acted as a public advocate for science, making frequent appearances on the BBC and Charlie Rose, and also within print media.

Nurse, a native of the United Kingdom, graduated from Birmingham University in 1970 and received his Ph.D. in cell biology and biochemistry from the University of East Anglia in 1973. He did postdoctoral work at universities in Bern, Switzerland, Edinburgh, and Sussex, and joined the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London in 1984. He has been chair of the department of microbiology at the University of Oxford, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, and president of The Rockefeller University, a position he held from 2003 to 2011.

Nurse is a member of The Royal Society and a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He received The Royal Society’s Royal and Copley Medals and the Legion of Honor in 2002. In 1999 he was honored with knighthood in Great Britain for services in cancer research and cell biology and in 1998 was awarded the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. He is currently president of the Royal Society.

Established in 2005, the Henry G. Friesen International Prize in Health Research is named for the Canadian endocrinologist who discovered the hormone prolactin. Nurse is the second Rockefeller faculty member to receive the Friesen Prize; in 2012, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the university’s current president, was honored with it.