Nicholas Tonks FRS
Nick Tonks was awarded a BA in Biochemistry from the University of Oxford in 1981 and PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Dundee in 1985, where he worked in the laboratory of Prof. Sir Philip Cohen. From 1985-88 he performed postdoctoral studies in the laboratory of one of the pioneers in the field of protein phosphorylation, Prof Edmond Fischer (1992 Nobel Laureate), in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Washington and in 1988 he accepted a faculty position there as Research Assistant Professor. In 1990 he joined the faculty of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and was promoted to Professor in 1995.
His research focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which cells sense and respond to the stimuli from their environment that regulate growth, differentiation, movement and survival - a process that is called signal transduction. In addition, he works on defining how these responses are disrupted in major diseases including cancer, diabetes and obesity. While at the University of Washington, he was the first to isolate an enzyme termed a protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP), which is an essential component of such response mechanisms, and he went on to show that this was the prototype for a large family of such enzymes in humans. His work led to a shift in emphasis in research in the area of signal transduction to include the PTPs, which are now recognized as critical regulators of signal transduction in their own right, with disruption of their function underlying several major human diseases. Dr. Tonks takes a multidisciplinary approach to characterizing the structure, regulation and function of members of the PTP family of enzymes, with the goal of defining their role in the normal control of cell function and using them as the basis for identifying novel therapeutic targets and strategies for treatment of major human diseases.
In addition to his academic research, Dr. Tonks has extensive teaching, mentoring and administrative expertise. Currently, he is the Deputy Director of the NCI-designated Cancer Center at CSHL. In addition, he serves as the Postdoctoral Program Director for CSHL and as a member of the Curriculum Development Committee and the Admissions Committee for the Watson School of Biological Sciences. He served on grant review Study Sections at the NIH and has been an organizer of 16 international conferences. He has spoken at ~200 international conferences and made lecture/seminar presentations in 180 universities or research institutions in the U.S.A. and abroad. He has extensive industrial experience as a consultant for several companies and as scientific founder of CEPTYR Inc., a small biotechnology company that focused on the development of therapeutics that target the PTP family of enzymes. In 2014, he was the scientific founder of DepYmed Inc., a company that was established to bring novel PTP inhibitors into clinical trials. He is also a scientific founder of ArRETT Neurosciences, a company that was established to validate new approaches to therapeutic intervention in Rett syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.
Dr Tonks has published over 190 papers in the field and has 10 issued patents. He has been funded by the NIH continually for the last 25 years, since starting his own lab. His research has been recognized by several awards, including the Colworth Medal for 1993, which is awarded annually by the British Biochemical Society to an outstanding British Biochemist under the age of 35, and he was a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences from 1991-95. In 2001, he was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society, which is the National Academy of Sciences of the UK. In 2012 he was awarded a Vallee Foundation Visiting Professorship.