Professor Sir John GurdonFRS, FMedSci
It was ‘Dolly the sheep’ who caught the headlines in 1996, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. But years before that John Gurdon had been the first scientist to clone an animal. John achieved this with a frog while he was still a graduate student at Oxford in 1962. Although the word ‘clone’ already existed, it was now, because of his work, applied to animal cloning for the first time. The process involved taking an intestinal cell from an adult frog and growing a whole new organism from it. Today, the aim is to use cloning technology to create banks of replacement cells for transplants. If cells such as skin cells can be multiplied in the lab, and are person-specific, i.e. generated from a particular individual’s body, then transplants could be achieved without the risk of rejection or the need for immunosuppression. Gurdon came to Cambridge in 1971, where he has worked since. In 2004 the Institute for Cell Biology and Cancer was renamed the Gurdon Institute. Commenting on the famed capacity of Cambridge’s Lab for Molecular Biology to generate fifteen Nobel Prizewinners, Gurdon commented, ‘you need a good tearoom’.
In 2012, Professor Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery that mature cells can be converted to stem cells.