Prof Sir Tom Blundell, Director of Research and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge, presented a public lecture titled ‘Genomes, structural biology and drug discovery: fighting drug resistance in cancer and tuberculosis’, at the University of Pretoria’s Hatfield Campus on Tuesday, 15 March 2016.
Prof Sir Blundell is a former Sir William Dunn Professor and Head of the Department of Biochemistry (1996–2009) at the University of Cambridge, and was also Chair of the School of Biological Sciences between 2003 and 2009. He has held teaching and research positions at the universities of London, Sussex and Oxford. His current research focusses on the molecular, structural and computational biology of growth factors, receptors, signal transduction and DNA repair, all of which are important in cancer, tuberculosis and familial diseases. He has published many widely used software packages for protein modelling and design, and has developed computer programs to predict the effects of mutations on proteins related to effects such as resistance to antibiotics. He has published 560 research papers, including 30 in Nature and two in Science.
Prof Sir Blundell’s presentation at the University of Pretoria covered basic science, as well as advances in genomes and in the understanding of gene products. He discussed the applications of these products in the discovery of new medicine to treat cancer and tuberculosis. He has been involved in the successful development of several new drugs, and has played leading roles in the UK, including as CEO of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and as President of the UK Science Council. It was therefore fitting that the presentation also included a discussion on the transformation of research and how basic research continues to be central both to making new medicines and to generating wealth. He explained that information from structural and functional gene products can provide knowledge on the relationship between different types of human genetics and disease, which will in turn be indispensable to the recognition of new targets of drug recovery.