University of Dundee

Dr. John Rouse Awarded 2011 Tenovus Medal

22 Feb 2011

Dr. John Rouse, a Programme Leader at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Protein Phosphorylation Unit in the College of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee has been awarded the 2011 Tenovus Medal.

The Tenovus Medal Lecture has been presented annually at the University of Glasgow since 1992 and is awarded each year to a scientist under the age of 40 with a Scottish link whose work has had a major impact on the field of cancer.

John Rouse was born and educated in Ireland receiving a 1st Class honours degree at Trinity College Dublin.  He then moved to Dundee where he carried out research for his PhD degree under the supervision of Sir Philip Cohen in the MRC  Protein Phosphorylation Unit. He held a postdoctoral position at the University of Cambridge from 1997-2002 before returning to Dundee to set up his own research laboratory, gaining a Career Appointment from the MRC in 2008.

The focus of John’s research is to understand how cells recognize and repair DNA damage to prevent mutations that lead to cancer. The DNA in every cell of our body is like an instruction manual for the normal functioning of cells. A major problem is that DNA is constantly under attack from agents that cause DNA damage, such as ultraviolet radiation from the sun and toxic substances in the atmosphere, as well as substances that are produced naturally within our cells. This can give rise to changes or “mutations” in DNA. However, DNA damage does not normally cause problems for health because our cells can detect and repair DNA damage. However, if DNA repair fails and mutations gradually accumulate, this can lead to the “re-writing” of the instructions encoded in DNA and it is these undesirable changes that underlie cancer.

In recent years, John’s laboratory has discovered a range of novel DNA repair proteins that are essential for repairing DNA. These include several enzymes, collectively called the “SLX4 nuclease complex”, which act a “molecular toolkit” for DNA repair.  Mutations in SLX4 that adversely affect its function greatly increase susceptibility to cancer. John also identified another enzyme called the “FAN1 structure-specific nuclease”, which acts as a “molecular scissors” for trimming superfluous pieces of DNA during DNA repair, and the “MMS22L–TONSL” complex that initiates the repair of broken DNA.

Commenting on the award John said: “I’m delighted to be awarded the Tenovus Medal, which is a reflection of the talents and efforts of the people who have worked in my lab and the outstanding research environment and facilities that we have here in the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit and College of Life Sciences at Dundee”. John will present the Tenovus Medal Lecture, at University of Glasgow on June 8th 2011. He becomes the third researcher from the College of Life Sciences at Dundee to be awarded the Tenovus Medal. The previous recipients were Tom Owen-Hughes in 2007 and Neil Perkins in 2009, who carried out the work for which they received the Tenovus Medal in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression at Dundee.