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Heads of Laboratories

Head shot of Paul Nurse
Paul Nurse, Ph.D.
President Emeritus
Laboratory of Yeast Genetics and Cell Biology

Dr. Nurse’s research focuses on the molecular machineries that control cell division and cell shape. Using the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe as a model system, his laboratory studies the cell cycle and cell morphogenesis controls operative in eukaryotic cells. His major past contribution was the codiscovery of cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) as the key regulator molecule controlling S phase and mitosis, findings that have had implications for understanding cell reproduction, cell growth, development, and cancer.

Present work in the Nurse laboratory is in three areas: the cell cycle, cell form, and genomic studies. The lab is split on two sites, with the major activity located at the Francis Crick Institute in London, and a smaller group located at The Rockefeller University, which works mainly on combining chemical biology and genetics to investigate cell biology problems in fission yeast.

In collaboration with Tarun Kapoor, the Nurse lab works on the development and use of fission yeast for chemical biology. A fission yeast strain has been constructed with compromised multidrug resistance, allowing chemical drug screens and experiments to be carried out efficiently. This strain has been used in synthetic lethal approaches to identify chemicals that influence the course of mitosis. Two chemical drugs and their targets have been identified and characterized. The first inhibits fatty acid synthase, which reduces nuclear membrane growth during telophase, and the second inhibits Aurora protein kinase and has been used to demonstrate that the various functions of this kinase are triggered by different levels of activity. The laboratory is exploring how chemical and genetic approaches can be combined with a particular focus on AAA proteins.

Another project is the characterization of the spatial and temporal organization of origin usage during S phase. This has shown that origins are initially fired stochastically along the chromosomes and then become grouped in clusters. The positions of these clusters vary in different S phases, and the clusters appear to correspond to foci of replication observed in eukaryotic S phase nuclei. A further project is using bioinformatic approaches to link cell cycle and cell form genes to human cancer, particularly breast cancer.


B.Sc. in biological sciences, 1970
University of Birmingham

Ph.D. in cell biology and biochemistry, 1973
University of East Anglia


University of Bern, 1973

University of Edinburgh, 1974–1980

University of Sussex, 1980–1984


Head of Laboratory, 1984–1987
Imperial Cancer Research Fund

Professor, 1987–1993
University of Oxford

Director of Research, 1993–1996
Director-General, 1996–2002
Imperial Cancer Research Fund

Director-General, 2002
Chief Executive, 2002–2003
Cancer Research UK

Professor, 2003–
President, 2003–2011
President Emeritus, 2011–
The Rockefeller University

President, 2010–2015
The Royal Society

CEO and Director, 2010–
Francis Crick Institute


Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, 1998

Knighthood, Great Britain, 1999

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2001

Royal Medal, The Royal Society, 2002

Copley Medal, The Royal Society, 2002

Legion d’Honneur, 2002

Henry G. Friesen International Prize, 2015


Foreign Associate, National Academy of Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The Royal Society


Kaykov, A. and Nurse, P. The spatial and temporal organization of origin firing during the S-phase of fission yeast. Genome Res. 25, 391–401 (2015).

Wu, P.Y. and Nurse, P. Replication origin selection regulates the distribution of meiotic recombination. Mol. Cell 53, 655–662 (2014).

Kawashima, S.A. et al. A chemical biology strategy to analyze rheostat-like protein kinase-dependent regulation. Chem. Biol. 20, 262–271 (2013).

Coudreuse, D. and Nurse, P. Driving the cell cycle with a minimal CDK control network. Nature 468, 1074–1079 (2010).

Moseley, J.B. et al. A spatial gradient coordinates cell size and mitotic entry in fission yeast. Nature 459, 857–860 (2009).

Dr. Nurse is a faculty member in the David Rockefeller Graduate Program and the Tri-Institutional M.D.-Ph.D. Program.