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Nobel Laureates

press releases

October 9, 2001
MBL Corporation Member Shares 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Tim Hunt is recognized for discovery of cyclins, made at the MBL in early 1980s

Marine Biological Laboratory Corporation member R. Timothy (Tim) Hunt of the Cancer Research UK, Clare Hall Laboratories, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on October 8, 2001, for discoveries made at the MBL in the early 1980s. He and Leland Hartwell and Paul Nurse were recognized for their identification of "key regulators of the cell cycle."

Hunt was honored for his discovery of cyclins, proteins that figure prominently in the cascade of events that regulate the cell cycle, the process by which cells, including the billions that make up the human body, grow and divide.

"Defects in cell cycle control may lead to the type of chromosome alterations seen in cancer cells." The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet explained in a press release. "This may in the long term open new possibilities for cancer treatment."

Hunt and his students discovered cyclin while conducting research and teaching in the Marine Biological Laboratory’s Physiology course during the summer of 1982. They used the sea urchins Arbacia and Litechinus and the surf clam Spisula as model systems for their studies.

With transparent eggs and embryos, marine organisms like sea urchins and surf clams are uniquely suited for studies of cell division. As eggs from these organisms develop, they offer biologists a clear view of the processes that enable a single cell to give rise to a complete organism—processes common to all eukaryotes including sea urchins, clams, and humans.

MBL courses, including the Physiology course, are known throughout the life sciences for kick-starting research careers. No single university can provide a faculty comparable in quality or number to those who teach MBL courses. The MBL chooses its faculty from the best at all universities, fielding an all-star team of instructors who typically present material too new to be in the textbooks. The unmatched faculty of MBL courses helps the Laboratory attract the students who will be the leading researchers of tomorrow.

To date 12 alumni of MBL courses have gone on to win Nobel Prizes.