Royal Society Presents 2014 Royal Medal to Tony Hunter, PhD, FRS, Salk Professor

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Tony Hunter, PhD, FRS

Tony Hunter, PhD, FRS, has been awarded the 2014 Royal Medal for Biological Sciences by the Royal Society, an international fellowship of scientists based in the United Kingdom. The award recognizes Dr. Hunter, Director of Salk Institute Cancer Center in San Diego, for his contributions to the understanding of cellular signaling transduction. Dr. Hunter discovered a master “switch” for this cell growth signaling that ultimately led to the development of a number of new cancer drugs.

Dr. Hunter is also a Professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute.

Research Changed Cancer Treatment Landscape

“Tony Hunter’s discoveries have changed the landscape for the treatment of cancer and other related diseases and underscores the importance of basic science,” said William Brody, MD, PhD, President of the Salk Institute. “All of us at the Salk Institute are thrilled that the Royal Society is recognizing Dr. Hunter’s groundbreaking discoveries with the award of the Royal Medal.”  

Each year, the Royal Society, which was founded in 1660 and is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence, awards three Royal Medals, also referred to as the “Queen’s Medals,” for the most important contributions in the physical, biological, and applied sciences. The medal will be presented at the Society’s Anniversary Day meeting on December 1, 2014.

“I am delighted to have been selected to receive the 2014 Royal Medal of the Royal Society of London, and I am extremely honored to join the scientific luminaries who make up the list of past biological sciences medal winners,” says Dr. Hunter, who is also an American Cancer Society Professor and the holder of Salk’s Renato Dulbecco Chair.

Dr. Hunter, a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) and a member of the National Academy of Sciences studies how mutations in genes that control growth lead to the unchecked proliferation of cancer cells.  

In 1979, his lab uncovered an entirely new mechanism of protein regulation in cells by discovering that the addition of a phosphate group to the amino acid tyrosine in proteins affects how cells multiply. This seminal discovery of a cellular “master switch” opened the door to the study of the dozens of proteins that act as enzymes to add the phosphate to tyrosine—known as tyrosine kinases—and their important role in cancer and other human diseases. This knowledge has resulted in the development of new cancer treatments, such as imatinib for leukemia.

Dr. Hunter received his PhD from the University of Cambridge, England, and completed his postdoctoral fellowship at The Salk Institute and University of Cambridge.

Other recipients of this year’s Royal Medals are Professor ­Howard Morris, FRS, and Professor Terence Tao, FRS. Professor Morris was awarded the 2014 Royal Medal for his pioneering work in biomolecular mass spectrometry including strategy and instrument design and for outstanding entrepreneurship in biopharmaceutical characterization. Professor Terence Tao, FRS, was awarded the 2014 Royal Medal for his many deep and varied contributions to mathematics, including harmonic analysis, prime number theory, partial differential equations, combinatorics, computer science, statistics, representation theory, and much more. ■