Azim Surani wins Gairdner award for discovery of genomic imprinting

Professor Azim Surani, a Wellcome Investigator, has been given a prestigious Canada Gairdner International Award. It recognises outstanding biomedical scientists who have made original contributions to medicine through increased understanding of human biology and disease.

Professor Surani discovered the phenomenon of genomic imprinting in 1984 and subsequently contributed to understanding of the developmental consequences and mechanistic basis of genomic imprinting. 

This included identifying DNA methylation as the heritable imprint, and that the imprinting patterns were reversible depending on the parent of origin.

Professor Surani, who is Director of Germline and Epigenetics Research at the Gurdon Institute, has transformed the field of genomic imprinting. His pioneering contributions to the understanding of imprinting opened up the field of epigenetics. 

He then went on to explore the fundamental principles of the germ line and primordial germ cell specification

His research has dealt with some of the most fundamental questions in biology – how parents' genetic information is passed to their offspring, and how the mechanism of epigenetic 'resetting' works to erase past epigenetic information in primordial germ cells and ensure correct future information in gametes and ensuing fertilisation.

Azim Surani: career at a glance

  • PhD in Mammalian Development at the University of Cambridge, 1975
  • Established independent laboratory at the Babraham Institute in 1979 as a Senior Principal Investigator
  • Returned to the University of Cambridge as Marshall–Walton Professor at the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute in 1991
  • Currently Director of Germline and Epigenomics Research 
  • Appointed CBE for services to science
  • Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences
  • Awards include Gabor Medal, Royal Medal from the Royal Society and ISSCR McEwen Award for Innovation.

Wellcome has supported Professor Surani's work since the early 1990s.

Jim Smith, Wellcome's Director of Science, says: "Azim is an extraordinarily gifted scientist with an outstanding record of internationally leading research in the field of epigentics and mammalian germ cell development. His work highlights the profound importance that correct gene dosage plays in development and physiology.

"In addition to his outstanding personal track record, Professor Surani's scientific leadership, research enthusiasm and innovative interdisciplinary approach have inspired many scientists worldwide."

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