Stichting Edmond Hustinx
Edmond Hustinx foundation

Allan Bradley Peter Debye prijs / prize

Professor Allan Bradley, Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England, is renowned for his work on the embryonic stem cell system and the analysis of gene function. The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the leading genomics centres in the world, dedicated to analysing and understanding genomes. The Institute played a key role in the sequencing of the human genome, arguably one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of recent times, as the 1953-discovery of the DNA structure at Cambridge. Through large-scale analysis and focused research and collaborations, the Sanger Institute's programmes underpin biological and medical research worldwide.
Mouse Developmental Genetics
The embryonic development of the mouse is highly complex and very organized, but remarkably little is known about genes (of which there must be many) involved in determining and controlling tissue fates, differentiation, general morphogenetic processes and growth control.
We have been involved in the development of a system which has become important for elucidating the developmental genetics of the mouse and facilitates the production of mouse models of human genetic disease.
This system involves the isolation of stem cell lines from preimplantation embryos. These stem cells are amenable to genetic modification while in culture and they can be returned to host embryos which will develop to term in a foster mother. The animals born are mosaic in all tissues and breeding analysis confirms that cells propagated in tissue culture are incorporated into the germ line of these mice.
In Dr. Bradley's laboratory these cells are being used as a route into the germ line. This route can accomplish many genetic modifications of the mouse genome that could not be realized with other techniques. Gene targeting techniques are being perform ed on these cells to mutagenize genes in order to ascertain their relevance in development and growth control.
Currently, at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, they are developing various technologies to use the knockout mouse as an assay to clone tumor suppressor genes. Towards this goal, they have recently developed a technique to make mice which are missing hundreds of genes. They are currently focusing on identifying genes which are mutated in breast cancer.

Members of the jury: Prof. dr J.P.M. Geraedts (voorzitter), Prof. dr R. Plasterk, Prof. dr M. Hofker

Jury report
The jury of the Peter Debye Prize 2004 has decided that Dr. Allan Bradley deserves the prize for his enormous contributions to Life Sciences in general en especially for his achievements in the field of the theme of the prize for this year, namely ‘Animal models of human genetic disease’.
Dr. Bradley was born in 1960 in Wolverhampton, England. He studied biology at the University of Cambridge and finished his PhD at this university in 1984. From 1987 to 2000 he was appointed at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, USA. In November 2000 he returned to Cambridge to become director of the Sanger Institute. The vast majority of the funding of this institute is now provided by the Wellcome Trust, which in October 2001 announced an award of £300 million to support this prestigious institute. The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, as it is called at present, has played a major role in sequencing the human genome and is also heavily involved in the sequencing of other genomes, included that of the mouse.
From the start of his PhD research, Prof. Bradley was involved in the development of animal models for human disease. Together with his mentors and colleagues Evans, Kaufman en Robertson he developed an original method to modify the mouse genome using embryonic stem cells. These cells, which are in the centre of many discussions today, were first isolated from pre-implantation embryos. They are cultured in the laboratory and after genetic modification transferred to host embryos, which develop to term in foster mothers. These mice are chimeras or mosaics, which means that these animals have the genetic content of the original embryo as well as that of the modified embryonic stem cells. By breeding these chimeras, genetically modified offspring can be obtained.
Dr. Bradley has studied the function of many genes by making so-called knock-out mutants. Afterwards he has modified the genome by mutating individual genes as well as bringing about much larger chromosomal changes. Using these tools the functions of many genes have been studied. This work is on the one hand of tremendous importance in studying fundamental developmental biological problems and on the other in studying the function of genes, which play a role in genetic disease and cancer.
During a period of 20 years the laureate has produced an impressive body of work, with a scientific output of the highest level. Dr. Bradley is author or co-author of more than 180 publications. Since his first publication in the famous British journal Nature at the age of 24 (on the successful creation of a germ line chimera) he has published more than 40 times in Nature or its daughter journal Nature Genetics.
Looking at this excellent curriculum vitae it is interesting to note that Dr. Bradley has not been overloaded with scientific prizes.
The most important ones are his recent appointments as Fellow of the Royal Society and Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.
Therefore it is an even greater pleasure and honour for the judging committee to present the Peter Debye-prize 2004 to this pioneer and world leader in the fields of embryonic stem cells and the analysis of gene function.