Steve Jackson FRS, FMedSci is the University of Cambridge Frederick James Quick and Cancer Research UK Professor of Biology. He is also Head of Cancer Research UK Laboratories at the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute.
Steve is originally from Nottingham in the English Midlands. He obtained his first degree from Leeds University and then did his PhD research with Jean Beggs on yeast mRNA splicing, first at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London and then in the Department of Molecular Biology at Edinburgh University.
After doing post-doctoral research with Robert Tjian at Berkeley, California, where he developed an interest in the regulation of transcription, Steve returned to the UK in 1991 as a Junior Group Leader at the then Wellcome-CRC Institute (now the Gurdon Institute). Here, he continued his research into transcription by eukaryotic RNA polymerases II and III and expanded this work to include the transcriptional apparatus of Archaea.
Through identifying and characterising the functions of the DNA-dependent protein kinase, Steve was led into the field of DNA repair and DNA-damage signalling; and for the past 20 years, this has been the major focus of his academic group.
Steve's pioneering research has provided us with many of the key principles by which cells respond to and repair DNA damage. He identified many DNA-damage-response (DDR) proteins, established how they function and how they are in many cases strongly evolutionarily conserved, and helped define how their dysfunction yields cancer and other diseases. He has received various national and international prizes, and his publications have collectively been cited >59,000 times (Google Scholar;h-index 118).
In 1997, through recognizing that many DDR proteins represent attractive drug targets, Steve founded and scientifically led the company KuDOS Pharmaceuticals (he was part-time KuDOS Chief Scientific Officer from 1997 to 2009), which was acquired by AstraZeneca in 2006.
Several KuDOS compounds are now in clinical trials, the most advanced being the PARP inhibitor olaparib/LynparzaTM, which Steve and colleagues showed exhibits striking cytotoxicity towards cancer cells mutated in BRCA1 or BRCA2. Ensuing clinical studies with olaparib established a new cancer therapy paradigm, wherein a cancer cell’s genetic deficiency (such as loss of BRCA1 or BRCA2 function) is exploited pharmacologically through a mechanism termed “synthetic-lethality”, resulting in cancer cell killing with only mild effects on the patient’s normal cells. Olaparib/Lynparza recently became a marketed drug in the USA, EU and elsewhere for ovarian cancer, and is in late-phase clinical trials for various other cancers, including breast, gastric and prostate. Olaparib is the world’s first marketed DNA-repair enzyme inhibitor, the first drug to harness the synthetic-lethality principle and the first anti-cancer medicine targeted to patients based on them having an inherited predisposition.
In 2010, Steve co-founded the company Mission Therapeutics to exploit new therapeutic opportunities, in oncology and several other disease areas, arising from his work on protein ubiquitylation and deubiquitylation. He currently serves as a director and part-time Mission CSO.
Awards & Achievements
Steve has received several prizes including, Eppendorf European Young Investigator of the Year (1995), the Tenovus Medal (1997), the Biochemical Society Colworth Medal (1997), and the Anthony Dipple Carcinogenesis Young Investigator Award (2002). More recently, in recognition of his achievements, he has received the Biochemical Society GlaxoSmithKline Award (2008), the BBSRC Innovator of the Year Award (2009) the Royal Society Buchanan Medal (2011), the Gagna A. & Ch. Van Heck prize (2015) and the King Faisal International Prize for Science (2016).
In addition, Steve was awarded the Heineken Prize for Science by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science in 2016 for his "fundamental research into DNA repair in human cells and for the successful application of knowledge of that process in the development of new cancer drugs". At the beginning of 2017 he was awarded the UK GSN Medal for his contributions to the field of genome stability and particularly for the realisation of the therapeutic potential of targeting the DDR. He is an elected member of several professional societies and organizations, including the European Molecular Biology Organization (1997), the Academy of Medical Sciences (2001) and the Fellowship of the Royal Society (2008).