Tom Blundell

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For the New Zealand cricketer, see Tom Blundell (cricketer).
Sir Tom Blundell
Blundell Tom 280306 crop.jpg
Sir Tom Blundell in 2006
Born Thomas Leon Blundell
(1942-07-07) 7 July 1942 (age 73)[1]
Alma mater University of Oxford[1]
Thesis The determination by X-ray diffraction methods of the crystal and molecular structures of some coordination compounds (1969)
Doctoral advisor HM Powell, FRS[citation needed]
Doctoral students
Known for
Notable awards
Spouse Dr. Lady Bancinyane Lynn Sibanda Blundell[1]
Children Ricky, Kelesi, Lisa


Sir Thomas Leon "Tom" Blundell, FRS, FMedSci (born 7 July 1942) is a British biochemist, structural biologist, and science administrator. He was a member of the team of Dorothy Hodgkin that solved in 1969 the first structure of a protein hormone, insulin. Blundell has made contributions to the structural biology of polypeptide hormones, growth factors, receptor activation, signal transduction, and DNA double-strand break repair, subjects important in cancer, tuberculosis, and familial diseases. He has developed software for protein modeling and understanding the effects of mutations on protein function, leading to new approaches to structure-guided and fragment-based drug discovery. In 1999 he co-founded the oncology company Astex Therapeutics, which has moved ten drugs into clinical trials. Blundell has played central roles in restructuring British research councils and, as President of the UK Science Council, in developing professionalism in the practice of science.


Born in Brighton in 1942, Blundell was educated at Steyning Grammar School.[9] His Master of Arts degree and DPhil are from the University of Oxford, working with Dorothy Hodgkin.


Insulin monomer

Blundell's early posts were at the University of Oxford and the University of Sussex. In 1976, Blundell joined the Department of Crystallography at Birkbeck, University of London, becoming head of department in 1978.

In 1991, he moved into science administration, as Director General of the Agricultural and Food Research Council (1991–94) and then the founding Chief Executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) (1994–1996). Other administrative posts include Chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (1998–2005). He is a former President of the Biosciences Federation (2004–06). In June 2011 he became President of the Science Council.

In 1995 he became the fifth Sir William Dunn Professor of Biochemistry and head of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge;[10][11] he currently also holds the Chair of the School of Biological Sciences at that university. He is a fellow of Sidney Sussex College. His specialty is molecular biology and his research on identifying the chemical processes of diseases has led to the development of drugs to treat Aids, cancer, cataracts and diabetes. He is the co-founder of two drug discovery companies, Astex Technology Ltd and Biofabrika.

On 15 September 2010, Blundell, along with 54 other public figures, signed an open letter published in The Guardian, stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to the UK.[12]


Blundell's research interests lie in elucidating macromolecular structure/function using methods from biochemistry, protein crystallography, bioinformatics, and structure-based drug design. Systems studied include DNA repair, hormones, growth factors and hormone/receptor interactions, cellular signalling, crystallins (lens proteins), renin and HIV protease. His group has written several bioinformatics programs.[13] [14] [15] [16] He co-authored a textbook on protein crystallography with Louise Johnson,[17] which was translated into French and Russian.

Awards and honours[edit]

Sir Tom Blundell in his office at the University of Cambridge, UK

Blundell was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1984.[18] His nomination reads:

Blundell became one of the first fellows of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1998.[20] He was knighted in 1997, and has also received numerous awards and medals[21] as well as being a guest on Desert Island Discs.[22] He was awarded an Honorary degree from the University of Pavia in 2002.


  1. ^ a b c BLUNDELL, Sir Thomas Leon, (Sir Tom). Who's Who 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.  (subscription required)
  2. ^ Hubbard, Tim (1988). The design, expression and characterisation of a novel protein (PhD thesis). University of London. (subscription required)
  3. ^ Overington, John (1991). Knowledge based protein modelling (PhD thesis). London, Birkbeck College. (subscription required)
  4. ^ Pearl, Laurence (1991). Crystallographic studies of endothiapepsin (PhD thesis). London, Birkbeck College. (subscription required)
  5. ^ Sali, Andrej (1984). Modelling three-dimensional structure of a protein from its amino acid sequence (PhD thesis). London, Birkbeck College. 
  6. ^ Blundell, T.; Cutfield, J.; Cutfield, S.; Dodson, E.; Dodson, G.; Hodgkin, D.; Mercola, D.; Vijayan, M. (1971). "Atomic positions in rhombohedral 2-zinc insulin crystals". Nature 231 (5304): 506–511. Bibcode:1971Natur.231..506B. doi:10.1038/231506a0. PMID 4932997. 
  7. ^ BBSRC Chair's biography: Sir Tom Blundell
  8. ^ Find an EMBO member
  9. ^ "Professor Sir Tom Blundell FRS FMedSci". British Humanist Association. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  10. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  11. ^ Šali, A.; Blundell, T. L. (1993). "Comparative Protein Modelling by Satisfaction of Spatial Restraints". Journal of Molecular Biology 234 (3): 779–815. doi:10.1006/jmbi.1993.1626. PMID 8254673. 
  12. ^ "Letters: Harsh judgments on the pope and religion". The Guardian (London). 15 September 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2010. 
  13. ^ Lewis, T. E.; Sillitoe, I; Andreeva, A; Blundell, T. L.; Buchan, D. W.; Chothia, C; Cuff, A; Dana, J. M.; Filippis, I; Gough, J; Hunter, S; Jones, D. T.; Kelley, L. A.; Kleywegt, G. J.; Minneci, F; Mitchell, A; Murzin, A. G.; Ochoa-Montaño, B; Rackham, O. J.; Smith, J; Sternberg, M. J.; Velankar, S; Yeats, C; Orengo, C (2013). "Genome3D: A UK collaborative project to annotate genomic sequences with predicted 3D structures based on SCOP and CATH domains". Nucleic Acids Research 41 (Database issue): D499–507. doi:10.1093/nar/gks1266. PMC 3531217. PMID 23203986. 
  14. ^ Lewis, T. E.; Sillitoe, I; Andreeva, A; Blundell, T. L.; Buchan, D. W.; Chothia, C; Cozzetto, D; Dana, J. M.; Filippis, I; Gough, J; Jones, D. T.; Kelley, L. A.; Kleywegt, G. J.; Minneci, F; Mistry, J; Murzin, A. G.; Ochoa-Montaño, B; Oates, M. E.; Punta, M; Rackham, O. J.; Stahlhacke, J; Sternberg, M. J.; Velankar, S; Orengo, C (2015). "Genome3D: Exploiting structure to help users understand their sequences". Nucleic Acids Research 43 (Database issue): D382–6. doi:10.1093/nar/gku973. PMID 25348407. 
  15. ^ Mizuguchi, K.; Deane, C. M.; Blundell, T. L.; Overington, J. P. (1998). "HOMSTRAD: A database of protein structure alignments for homologous families". Protein Science 7 (11): 2469–2471. doi:10.1002/pro.5560071126. PMC 2143859. PMID 9828015. 
  16. ^ Shi, J.; Blundell, T. L.; Mizuguchi, K. (2001). "FUGUE: Sequence-structure homology recognition using environment-specific substitution tables and structure-dependent gap penalties". Journal of Molecular Biology 310 (1): 243–257. doi:10.1006/jmbi.2001.4762. PMID 11419950. 
  17. ^ Blundell TL, Johnson LN (1976), Protein Crystallography, Academic Press, ISBN 0121083500 
  18. ^ "Lists of Royal Society Fellows 1660-2007". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on March 24, 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2010. 
  19. ^ "EC/1984/03: Blundell, Sir Thomas Leon". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2014-06-02. 
  20. ^ Academy of Medical Sciences: Fellows: Sir Tom Blundell (accessed 6 January 2009)
  21. ^ Dept of Biochemistry, Cambridge (includes CV and publications list)
  22. ^ Desert Island Discs: Castaway Tom Blundell
Academic offices
Preceded by
Hans Kornberg
Sir William Dunn Professor of Biochemistry, Cambridge University
1995 - 2009
Succeeded by
Gerard Evan
Government offices
Preceded by
CEO of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Succeeded by
Ray Baker