Steve Jackson FRS, FMedSci is University of Cambridge Professor of Biology, and Head of Cancer Research UK Laboratories at the Gurdon Institute. Through his academic research (h-index 121; Google Scholar), Steve has identified key principles by which cells respond to and repair DNA damage. In doing so, he identified many DNA repair proteins, established how they function, and helped define how their dysfunction leads to cancer and other age-related diseases. Steve has received various prizes, including the 2015 Gagna and van Heck Prize for Medicine, the 2016 King Faisal International Prize for Science, the 2016 AH. Heineken Prize for Medicine, and the 2017 Genome Stability Network Medal.
To translate his work towards patient benefit, Steve founded and then scientifically led the drug-discovery company KuDOS Pharmaceuticals Ltd., which was subsequently acquired by AstraZeneca. Several KuDOS-generated drugs are currently in clinical trials. The most advanced of these drugs, olaparib/LynparzaTM, inhibits the DNA-repair enzyme PARP, and enhances cancer-cell killing by radiotherapy and chemotherapies. Moreover, Steve and colleagues showed that PARP inhibitors exhibit striking cytotoxicity towards cancer cells lacking BRCA1 or BRCA2 function. This work thus validated a therapeutic concept that Steve articulated in his 1997 KuDOS Business Plan: killing cancer cells with defects in one DNA repair system by targeting their functional dependency on another DNA repair system, but having little effect on normal cells with the full DNA-repair repertoire.
In 2014, olaparib/Lynparza received FDA and EMA approval for treating ovarian cancers with BRCA1/2 mutations, and is now prescribed in ~50 countries worldwide. Lynparza/olaparib is the world’s first marketed DNA-repair-enzyme inhibitor, the first marketed PARP inhibitor, the first drug exploiting the so-called “synthetic lethality” principle, and the first cancer medicine targeting inherited predisposition. Ongoing clinical trials are highlighting exciting potential for olaparib and other PARP inhibitors in many other cancers.
In 2010, Steve founded Mission Therapeutics Ltd. (Babraham, Cambridge) to exploit recent advances in protein ubiquitylation and deubiquitylation to derive new medicines for cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and other diseases. Steve’s academic laboratory is currently further defining mechanisms of DNA repair and associated processes, with a view to identifying new therapeutic opportunities.