University of Dundee

Prof. Grahame Hardie receives Honorary Degree Medical University

19 May 2008

Prof. Grahame Hardie received an Honorary Degree - Doctor Honoris Causa- from the Medical University of Bialystok, Poland in recognition of his work on the discovery of AMP-activated protein kinase, its role as a sensor of cellular energy status and as a target for drugs aimed at treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

On Tuesday 13 May he received his Honorary Degree at the Medical University of Bialystok, Poland, from the Dean of Medicine, in the presence of  Professor Jan Gorski and the Deans of the University’s two other Medical Faculties. To mark the occasion Prof. Hardie presented a paper entitled,  ‘Sensing Cellular Energy: The Amp-Activated Protein Kinase Story’. Prof. Hardie was accompanied by his wife Lyn; also in attendance was the Rector of the Medical University of Bialystok.

The Medical University of Bialystok was founded in 1949 following the re-establishment of Poland after the Second World War. Bialystok is the main city in the North-East region of Poland, close to the border with Belarus. The University owns the magnificent Branicki Palace, built in 1726 and known as the "Versailles of the North": the ceremony took place in the Great Hall, which has a rich ad chequered political history.

The University only awards one degree of Doctor Honoris Causa each year and when asked about his reaction upon receiving this great honour Prof. Hardie said,

"This is the first degree I have received since my PhD in 1974, and to receive it was an unexpected privilege and honour. I have been very impressed during my visit with the obvious high regard that the people of Bialystok and Poland hold for education, and for scientific and medical research. I hope this award may help to strengthen the existing links between Scotland and Poland, and in particular between the University of Dundee and the Medical University of Bialystok".

Grahame Hardie was the person who defined and named the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) system, and established the concept that it is a sensor of cellular energy that adjusts energy supply to demand. AMPK achieves this task by balancing the rates of energy-producing catabolic pathways with those of energy-consuming pathways, that latter including cell growth and division. There are now over 1000 scientific papers published on the AMPK system every year.

The AMPK system is a target for the development of new anti-obesity and anti-diabetic drugs, and has been shown to be the target for the existing drug, Metformin, (taken by over 120 million people worldwide). Because 20-30% of adults in Western countries are now obese, while it is projected that over 200 million people will suffer from Type 2 diabetes worldwide by the year 2010, the AMPK system is currently of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry.