University of Dundee

Dario Alessi elected a Fellow of The Royal Society

19 May 2008

Professor Dario Alessi, Deputy Director of the Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation Unit and Professor of Cell Signalling in the College of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee, has been elected a Fellow of The Royal Society of London, the highest accolade a UK scientist can receive.

Professor Alessi’s election to the Royal Society recognises his major contributions to our understanding of how mutations in particular enzymes cause diabetes, cancer and hypertension.

Professor Alessi discovered the enzyme that was the missing link in a chain of events by which insulin induces the conversion of glucose in the blood to its storage form, glycogen, in muscle and liver. His research went on to identify the enzyme as a promising anti-cancer agent. He then solved the structure of another enzyme and explained how mutations in it cause cancer. In a further project, he worked out how mutations in a particular family of enzymes give rise to an inherited hypertension syndrome.

These wide-ranging discoveries have suggested new ways to prevent and treat cancer and to develop improved drugs for the treatment of high blood pressure. Professor Alessi has now shifted his attention to the role of another enzyme and why mutations in it cause Parkinson’s disease.

Commenting on the award, Professor Alessi said: “I was completely amazed to hear about my election. Now the shock is over, I’m especially looking forward to signing my name in the Royal Society Charter Book, which contains signatures of legendary scientists from the past 350 years including Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Francis Crick. This will be an unbelievable moment for me, and a tribute to the researchers in my lab, past and present, with whom I’ve had the privilege to work.

“The excellent facilities at Dundee University and fabulous support from my colleagues have also made an enormous contribution to my work and I’d especially like to thank Philip Cohen for providing me with much of the inspiration, resources and laboratory facilities to undertake my research.

“A crucial ingredient has also been the Medical Research Council which, for the last 17 years, has generously supported a large proportion of my research. This has enabled me to tackle long-term challenging projects that I would otherwise have been unable to undertake.

“I have also benefited greatly from the support of many charities including Diabetes UK, the Association for International Cancer Research, the Wellcome Trust, the Moffat Charitable Trust and Camperdown Lodge in Dundee. I would like to thank them profusely for the research funds they have provided.”