Ron Laskey recently retired from the Charles Darwin Chair of Embryology in the University of Cambridge and the Directorship of the MRC Cancer Cell Unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
One of his main interests has been the control of cell proliferation and why it goes wrong in cancer. In particular he has studied the control of DNA synthesis and some of the proteins studied in his work are in advanced clinical trials of new screening tests for some of the common cancers. Another major interest has been the transport of macromolecules between the nucleus and cytoplasm.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Member of Academia Europaea, President of the Biochemical Society, Vice President of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a former President of the British Society for Cell Biology. His work has been recognised by several awards, including the Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine, the Feldberg Prize and the Royal Medal of the Royal Society.
On a lighter note he has written and recorded albums of Songs for Cynical Scientists and More Songs for Cynical Scientists, now combined as Selected Songs for Cynical Scientists.
Exploring Beyond the Horizons
The French philosopher, André Gide, wrote “One does not discover new lands without agreeing to lose sight of the shore for a very long time”. This talk will illustrate how unexpected results may give clues of new areas lying beyond the horizon. The discovery of monoclonal antibodies is a well-known example of a major advance arising unexpectedly from experiments with a much more limited purpose. A less well-known example of the same principle is the extraordinary and world-changing alternative application of an obsolete method for purifying penicillin, which its inventor only heard about 40 years later. More mundane examples will be given from the speaker’s own work, including studies of macromolecule transport between the cytoplasm and nucleus and the control of DNA replication. In several cases, the conventional wisdom, or even the literature, have held back progress in the field by mistaking rocks in the fog for the true horizon. Recent examples of unexpected results include the discovery of new roles for old proteins, including a novel role for a DNA replication protein in specification of stem cell identity and a novel role for a protein implicated in Bcell differentiation, namely selective export of a fascinating sub-set of mRNA’s from the nucleus.
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