Jim Cuthbert Smith

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Sir Jim Smith
James Cuthbert (Jim) Smith.jpg
Born James Cuthbert Smith
(1954-12-31) 31 December 1954 (age 63)
Alma mater
Fiona Watt (m. 1979)
Scientific career
Thesis Studies of positional signalling along the antero-posterior axis of the developing chick limb (1979)
Doctoral advisor Lewis Wolpert[3]
Website crick.ac.uk/jim-smith

Sir James Cuthbert Smith FRS FMedSci (born 31 December 1954)[4] is Director of Science at the Wellcome Trust and Senior Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute.[5][6][7][8][3][9]


Smith was educated at Latymer Upper School[4] and graduated from the University of Cambridge with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Natural Sciences in 1976.[3] He was awarded a PhD in 1979 by University College London (UCL) for research supervised by Lewis Wolpert at Middlesex Hospital Medical School.[3][10][11][12][13]

Career and research[edit]

Smith completed postdoctoral research appointments at Harvard Medical School from 1979 to 1981 and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK) from 1981 to 1984. In 1984 he joined the staff of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), becoming head of the Division of Developmental Biology in 1991 and head of the Genes and Cellular Control Group in 1996. He moved to become director of the Gurdon Institute in 2001, returning to NIMR in 2009 to become its director. In 2014 he became Deputy CEO of the Medical Research Council.[5] When NIMR joined the CRUK London Research Institute as part of the Francis Crick Institute he became Director of Research at the Crick. He took up his present roles in December 2016.

Smith's research has focused on how cells of the very early vertebrate embryo form the specialised tissues of muscle, skin, blood and bone.[11] His discovery of a mesoderm-inducing factor secreted by a cell line and establishing its identity as activin transformed the study of induction in the early embryo. He also showed that activin specifies different cell types at different thresholds and that characteristic genes like Brachyury[14] are turned on at specific concentrations. In other work he shed light on the molecular basis of gastrulation, and especially the role of non-canonical Wnt signalling.[15][16] His earlier work demonstrated threshold responses in chick limb development and also showed that the mitogenic response to growth factors can be active when attached to the extracellular matrix.[5]

Awards and honours[edit]

Smith was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1993[5][11] and of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1998. He was awarded the Feldberg Foundation award in 2000, the William Bate Hardy Prize in 2001 and the Waddington Medal by the British Society for Developmental Biology in 2013.[2] In 2014 he was named by the London Evening Standard as one of the 1000 most influential Londoners,[17] in the 'Innovators' section. He was also awarded the EMBO Gold Medal in 1993.[18][19]

Smith was knighted in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to medical research and science education.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Smith married Fiona Watt in 1979 and has three children.[4]


  1. ^ a b "No. 61803". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2016. p. N2. 
  2. ^ a b "Jim Smith awarded the Waddington Medal". MRC National Institute for Medical Research. Archived from the original on 24 November 2014. Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d Weston, Kathy (2010). "The accidental biologist: an interview with Jim Smith". Disease Models & Mechanisms. 3 (1–2): 11–14. doi:10.1242/dmm.004952. PMID 20075376. 
  4. ^ a b c Anon (2016). Smith, Sir James Cuthbert. ukwhoswho.com. Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.35379.  closed access publication – behind paywall (subscription required)
  5. ^ a b c d Anon (2015). "Dr Jim Smith FMedSci FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:

    "All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License." --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 2015-09-25. Retrieved 2016-03-09. 

  6. ^ Jim Cuthbert Smith on Twitter Edit this at Wikidata
  7. ^ Watts, Geoff (2016). "Jim Smith: biologist at the heart of embryonic Francis Crick Institute". The Lancet. 387 (10031): 1899. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30409-3. PMID 27203642. 
  8. ^ "Jim Smith: Developmental Biology Laboratory". London: crick.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 2016-06-07. 
  9. ^ Jim Cuthbert Smith publications from Europe PubMed Central
  10. ^ Smith, James Cuthbert (1979). Studies of positional signalling along the antero – posterior axis of the developing chick limb. london.ac.uk (PhD thesis). University College London (University of London). OCLC 500567020. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.473165. 
  11. ^ a b c "James Cuthbert Smith FRS". London: historyofnimr.org.uk. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. 
  12. ^ MRC National Institute for Medical Research (2013). A Century of Science for Health. MRC National Institute for Medical Research. 
  13. ^ Smith, Jim (1999). "T-box genes: what they do and how they do it". Trends in Genetics. 15 (4): 154–158. doi:10.1016/S0168-9525(99)01693-5. 
  14. ^ Marcellini, S.; Technau, U.; Smith, J.; Lemaire, P. (2003). "Evolution of Brachyury proteins: identification of a novel regulatory domain conserved within Bilateria". Developmental Biology. 260 (2): 352–361. doi:10.1016/S0012-1606(03)00244-6. PMID 12921737. 
  15. ^ Tada, M.; Smith, J. C. (1 May 2000). "Xwnt11 is a target of Xenopus Brachyury: regulation of gastrulation movements via Dishevelled, but not through the canonical Wnt pathway". Development. 127 (10): 2227–2238. ISSN 0950-1991. PMID 10769246. 
  16. ^ Heisenberg, Carl-Philipp; Tada, Masazumi; Rauch, Gerd-Jörg; Saúde, Leonor; Concha, Miguel L.; Geisler, Robert; Stemple, Derek L.; Smith, James C.; Wilson, Stephen W. "Silberblick/Wnt11 mediates convergent extension movements during zebrafish gastrulation". Nature. 405 (6782): 76–81. doi:10.1038/35011068. 
  17. ^ Anon (2014). "The 1000 – London's most influential people 2014: Innovators". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 2015-06-18. 
  18. ^ Smith, J. C. (1 December 1993). "Mesoderm-inducing factors in early vertebrate development". The EMBO Journal. 12 (12): 4463–4470. ISSN 0261-4189. PMC 413870Freely accessible. PMID 8223456. 
  19. ^ "EMBO Gold Medal awards since 1986". EMBO. Retrieved 2017-05-03.