Dr Jan Löwe says he’s ‘humbled’ to take over as director of MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
PUBLISHED: 22:14 14 February 2018 | UPDATED: 22:35 14 February 2018
Deputy director takes over from retiring Professor Sir Hugh Pelham at Medical Research Council-funded lab in Cambridge
Dr Jan Löwe said he was “excited and humbled” to be named as the new director of the world famous Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC LMB) in Cambridge.
Currently the deputy director of the institute and joint head of its structural studies division, Dr Löwe was appointed following a competitive international search to find a successor to Professor Sir Hugh Pelham, who is retiring after 12 years of leading Cambridge’s ‘Nobel Prize factory’.
In his new role, Dr Löwe will have control of a core budget of £190 million over five years and will direct more than 700 research and support staff.
He said: “Not in my wildest dreams would I have thought in 1996 when I came here that I would one day be the director of this great institute. Being given such an important job makes me feel both excited and humbled. I will aim to preserve and develop LMB’s very special culture and people, so that new ideas keep the LMB at the forefront of molecular biology, where it belongs.”
The LMB, on Cambridge Biomedial Campus, is a multi-disciplinary research institute, focused on understanding biological processes at the levels of atoms, molecules, cells and organisms. Its aim is to use this understanding towards solving key problems in human health.
With funding from the MRC, scientists at the LMB are able to tackle difficult long-term research problems. They have made huge contributions, such as in the sequencing of DNA and pioneering the method of X-ray crystallography to determine protein structure.
Established in 1962, the LMB has produced 15 Nobel Prize winners – including Dr Richard Henderson, who was awarded the 2017 Chemistry Prize for the development of cryo-electron microscopy.
Prof Sir John Savill, chief executive at the MRC, said: “The LMB is one of the best biomedical research institutes in the world and we are thrilled that someone with Jan’s ambitious and pioneering vision will be leading the LMB at such an exciting time for innovation, both in cell and molecular biology, as well as the associated methods and technology developments.
“It’s essential that the MRC, on behalf of UKRI, continues to invest in this type of basic research because of its enormous potential to improve human health.
“Under Hugh Pelham’s extraordinary leadership, the LMB has made great strides in our understanding of life at different scales.
“Hugh has been key in developing critical collaborations, with the LMB playing a leading role in translating exciting discovery science into patient benefit through strategic research partnerships with world-leading companies such as AstraZeneca.
“He successfully steered the institute to a superb new home, opened by the Queen in the MRC’s centenary year. The magnificent building helps enhance the LMB culture of allowing scientists in different disciplines to work in close proximity to each other and facilitate the dynamic exchange of ideas.”
Previous LMB directors have included Max Perutz, Sydney Brenner, Aaron Klug and Richard Henderson.
Dr Löwe’s group focuses on the structure and function of key proteins in the cytoskeleton of bacteria, using tools of cell and structural biology. Many of the molecules he is studying, many of which act as filament-driven motors, are the complex structures involved in bacterial cell division and bacterial DNA segregation.
Dr Löwe joined the LMB in 1996 and became a group leader in 1998. He won a Leverhulme Prize for Biochemistry in 2002, the EMBO Gold Medal in 2007 and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 2008 and of Germany’s National Academy Leopoldina in 2013. He was appointed joint head of the structural studies division in 2010 and became deputy director in 2016.