Tim Hunt bigraphy, stories - Biochemist, Nobel Prize winner

Tim Hunt : biography

19 February 1943 -

Sir Tim Hunt, FRS (born Richard Timothy Hunt; 19 February 1943 in Neston, Cheshire) is an English biochemist.

Higher education and career

In 1961 he was accepted into Clare College, Cambridge to study Natural Sciences, graduating in 1964 and immediately beginning work in the university Department of Biochemistry under Asher Korner, working with scientists such as Louis Reichardt and Tony Hunter. A 1965 talk by Vernon Ingram interested him in haemoglobin synthesis, and at a conference in 1966 in Greece on the subject he persuaded Irving London to allow him to work in his laboratory in New York, staying from July to October 1966. He finished his PhD in 1968 and again returned to New York to work with London, where he collaborated with Nechama and Edward Kosower and Ellie Ehrenfeld. While there they discovered that tiny amounts of glutathione inhibited protein synthesis in reticulocytes and that tiny amounts of RNA killed the synthesis altogether. After returning to Cambridge he again began work with Hunter and Richard Jackson, who had discovered the RNA strand used to start haemoglobin synthesis. After 3–4 years the team discovered at least two other chemicals acting as inhibitors.

While doing summer work in 1982 at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, using the sea urchin (Arbacia punctulata) egg as his model organism, he discovered the cyclin molecule. Hunt found that cyclins begin to be synthesised after the eggs are fertilized and increase in levels during interphase, until they drop very quickly in the middle of mitosis in each cell division. He also found that cyclins are present in vertebrate cells where they also regulate the cell cycle. He and others subsequently showed that the cyclins bind and activate a family of protein kinases, now called the cyclin-dependent kinases, one of which had been identified as a crucial cell cycle regulator by Paul Nurse.

In 1990, he began work at Imperial Cancer Research Fund, now known as the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute in the United Kingdom. He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1991 and a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1999. In 2001 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Leland Hartwell and Sir Paul Nurse for their discoveries regarding cell cycle regulation by cyclin and cyclin-dependent kinases. In 2006 he was awarded the Royal Medal for 'discovering a key aspect of cell cycle control, the protein cyclin which is a component of cyclin dependent kinases, demonstrating his ability to grasp the significance of the result outside his immediate sphere of interest'. He was knighted by the Queen in the same year.

He is a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering. He also sits on the Selection Committee for Life Science and Medicine which chooses winners of the Shaw Prize.

Early life

Hunt was born on 19 February 1943 in Neston, Cheshire to Richard William Hunt, a lecturer in palaeography in Liverpool, and Kit Rowland, daughter of a timber merchant. After the death of both his parents Hunt found his father had worked at Bush House, most likely in intelligence, although it is not known what he actually did. In 1945 Richard became Keeper of the Western Manuscripts at the Bodleian Library, and the family relocated to Oxford. At the age of eight Tim was accepted into the Dragon School, where he first developed an interest in biology thanks to his German teacher, Gerd Sommerhoff. When he was fourteen he moved to Magdalen College School, Oxford, where the science prizes now bear his name, becoming even more interested in science and studying subjects such as chemistry and zoology.


Tim Hunt was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Paul Nurse and Leland H. Hartwell for their discoveries of protein molecules that control the division (duplication) of cells. Illustrated Lecture

When cells with nuclei divide, they divide in phases called G1 (growth), S (synthesis), G2 (growth), and M (mitosis). Nurse, Hartwell and Hunt together discovered two proteins, cyclin and CDK (cyclin dependent kinase), that control the transition from one stage to another.

Working in sea urchin eggs, Hunt discovered cyclins, proteins that bind to cyclin dependent kinase (CDK) proteins and regulate their activity. Cyclins and CDKs turn other cell cycle proteins on and off by adding or removing phosphate groups.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine