The award recognises his contribution to understanding how our cells repair damage to their DNA. Much of his work has focused on molecules called helicases, which untwist and unzip DNA so it can be copied or repaired. Problems with helicases result in DNA damage that can lead to cancer.
Dr Boulton undertook his Cancer Research UK-funded PhD with Professor Steve Jackson at the world renowned Gurdon Institute, based at the University of Cambridge, in 1994. He then moved to Harvard Medical School, where he carried out post-doctoral research into DNA repair in nematode worms.
In 2002, Dr Boulton returned to the UK to establish the DNA Damage Response Laboratory at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute.
The Paul Marks Prize, awarded to researchers under 45-years-old, celebrates a new generation of leaders in cancer research who are making significant contributions to understanding cancer or are improving treatment of the disease through basic or clinical research. The prize is intended to encourage young investigators who have a unique opportunity to help shape the future of cancer research.
Dr Boulton said: “The Paul Marks Prize is arguably the most prestigious accolade for cancer research for scientists under 45 years of age. This is most clearly illustrated by the remarkable group of past winners of this award, who include some of the very best scientists working in cancer research today. I’m incredibly honoured to be joining this illustrious group of Paul Marks Prize winners and hope to continue the success that has brought me to this stage in my career.
“Our strength and success over the last decade has been underpinned by our ability to test our theories in different animal models. Importantly, we’ve been able to move between these models – including yeast, worms and mice – to benefit from their respective experimental strengths. This has helped us make a number of important discoveries relating to DNA repair and cancer, which may help to develop new treatments.
“One of my goals for the next five to 10 years is to add a translational component to our research programme, to take these advances from the lab into the clinic.”
Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “This is a richly deserved award for Dr Boulton and we’re proud to have supported his pioneering work throughout most of his career. Through the generous support of the British public, we are able to fund some of the very brightest and best scientists in the world. The research they carry out is changing the lives of people diagnosed with cancer, and the discoveries our scientists are making now will bring more tomorrows for patients and their families in the future.”
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The Paul Marks Prize is now awarded to up to three investigators every other year. Nominees are required to be age 45 or younger on the date of the submission deadline. Recipients are selected by a panel of investigators from leading research institutions. The winners present their work at a scientific symposium at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Each receives a medal and they share a cash award of $150,000.
The other two recipients of the Paul Marks Prize 2013 are Levi A. Garraway, MD, PhD, 45, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, and Duojia (DJ) Pan, PhD, 45, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Each winner will receive an award of $50,000 and speak about their research at a scientific symposium on December 5.
Read more about the work of Dr Simon Boulton on the Cancer Research UK Science Update Blog.