Laurence Pearl

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Laurence Pearl
Laurence Pearl.jpg
Laurence Pearl in his office
Born Laurence Harris Pearl
(1956-06-18) 18 June 1956 (age 58)[1]
Alma mater
Thesis Crystallographic studies of endothiapepsin (1984)
Doctoral advisor Tom Blundell
Known for Work on HIV-1 protease, DNA Repair Enzymes, Hsp90 and GSK-3
Notable awards
Spouse Frances M. G. Pearl[1]
Children two sons, one daughter[1]

Laurence Harris Pearl FRS[4] FMedSci (born 18 June 1956) is a British biochemist and structural biologist who is currently Professor of Structural Biology in the Genome Damage and Stability Centre and Head of the School of Life Sciences at the University of Sussex.[2][5][6][7][8][9]


Born in Manchester in 1956 to a working-class Jewish family,[1] he went to Manchester Grammar School where he was very active in school drama productions, appearing alongside Nicholas Hytner in The Government Inspector. Pearl read Biochemistry at University College London and then obtained MSc and PhD degrees in the Department of Crystallography at Birkbeck College, for studies of endothiapepsin under the supervision of Tom Blundell.[10]


Following Postdoctoral research positions at Birkbeck College and the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton, Surrey, he returned to UCL as Lecturer in Biochemistry in 1989, becoming Reader and then Professor of Structural Biology in 1996. In 1999 he rejoined the Institute of Cancer Research to chair the new Section of Structural Biology (jointly with David Barford) at the Chester Beatty Laboratories in Chelsea.

In 2009 he was appointed Head of the new School of Life Sciences at the University of Sussex, relocating his laboratory to the MRC Genome Damage and Stability Centre, where he holds the position of Professor of Structural Biology.

Research and Enterprise[edit]

His research focuses on understanding the structural basis for assembly, specificity and regulation of proteins and complexes involved in human diseases such as HIV/AIDS[11] and cancer.[12] He is particularly noted for his early work on the HIV-1 protease, proteins involved in DNA repair such as uracil-DNA glycosylase and DNA-PKcs and the Hsp90[6] molecular chaperone system. Although focussed on understanding basic mechanisms, his laboratory is committed to translating this understanding to the discovery of new drugs for patient benefit.[13]

He is a founder and CSO of Domainex Ltd,[14] an innovative drug discovery company that won the 2010 Genesis Life Science Innovation and Enterprise Programme Of The Year Award,[15] and the "Innovation in Enabling Biotechnology" Prize at 2007 UKTI Bioentrepreneurial Company of the Year Awards.[16]

On arrival at Sussex he undertook the restructuring of the School of Life Sciences which resulted in nearly one third of the faculty accepting early retirement or leaving the University,[17] and rationalised the degree programs, stopping a number of poorly-recruiting Masters programmes. Sussex now ranks 8th in the UK in Biosciences in the 2012 Guardian University Guide,[18] and Chemistry, which had been threatened with closure in 2006, has been revitalised with the appointment of new Faculty in Organic and Synthetic Chemistry, and with the launch of a University-funded initiative in Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery.[19]

Sussex ranked 10th overall in the UK for Biological Sciences, and 8th for research outputs in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF),[20] placing it on par with Cambridge and ahead of the majority of Russell Group Universities.

Awards and honours[edit]

Pearl was elected to membership of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) in 2005, a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci) in 2007, a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2008 and a Member of the Academia Europaea (MAE) in 2012. In 2011 he was awarded an inaugural Senior Investigator Award by the Wellcome Trust.[21] His nomination for the Royal Society reads

Pearl and his research team were awarded the 2013 Cancer Research UK Translational Cancer Research Prize [22] along with the team of Paul Workman at the Institute of Cancer Research for their seminal work in developing the Hsp90 molecular chaperone as a new target for cancer therapy and for their role in development of the drug AUY922, which is in clinical trial by Novartis.

Personal life[edit]

Pearl was involved in campaigns and direct actions against nuclear arms in the 1980s, but has no active political involvement at present. He is a signatory of Jews for Justice for Palestinians.


  1. ^ a b c d "PEARL, Prof. Laurence Harris". Who's Who 2014, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014; online edn, Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b Laurence Pearl's publications indexed by Google Scholar, a free service provided by Google
  3. ^ a b Find an EMBO member
  4. ^ a b c "EC/2008/32 Pearl, Laurence: Library and Archive Catalogue". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2014-02-16. 
  5. ^ Pearl, L. H.; Taylor, W. R. (1987). "A structural model for the retroviral proteases". Nature 329 (6137): 351–4. doi:10.1038/329351a0. PMID 3306411. 
  6. ^ a b Pearl, L. H.; Prodromou, C (2006). "Structure and mechanism of the Hsp90 molecular chaperone machinery". Annual Review of Biochemistry 75: 271–94. doi:10.1146/annurev.biochem.75.103004.142738. PMID 16756493. 
  7. ^ Laurence Pearl's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database, a service provided by Elsevier.
  8. ^ Laurence Pearl appears in Stephen Curry's film - "I'm a Scientist"
  9. ^ Prodromou, C; Roe, S. M.; O'Brien, R; Ladbury, J. E.; Piper, P. W.; Pearl, L. H. (1997). "Identification and structural characterization of the ATP/ADP-binding site in the Hsp90 molecular chaperone". Cell 90 (1): 65–75. doi:10.1016/S0092-8674(00)80314-1. PMID 9230303. 
  10. ^ Pearl, Laurence (1984). Crystallographic studies of endothiapepsin (PhD thesis). Birkbeck College. 
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  13. ^ Pearl, L. H.; Prodromou, C; Workman, P (2008). "The Hsp90 molecular chaperone: An open and shut case for treatment". Biochemical Journal 410 (3): 439–53. doi:10.1042/BJ20071640. PMID 18290764. 
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