New director for the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

The new Director of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) has been named as Dr Jan Löwe. Löwe is currently the Joint Head of the Structural Studies Division at the LMB and Deputy Director of the institute.

The LMB is a multi-disciplinary research institute dedicated to the understanding of important biological processes at the levels of atoms, molecules, cells and organisms, towards solving key problems in human health.

Scientists at the LMB tackle difficult long-term research problems and have made revolutionary contributions to science — such as in the sequencing of DNA and pioneering the method of X-ray crystallography to determine protein structure.

The LMB was set up by the MRC in 1962 and continues to produce exceptional scientific outputs. Nicknamed the ‘Nobel prize factory’, fifteen LMB scientists have been awarded Nobel prizes for their work, the latest being Dr Richard Henderson, who was awarded the 2017 Chemistry Prize for the development of cryo-electron microscopy.

As Director, Löwe will have control of a core-budget of some £190 million in five years and direction of 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.”

Professor 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.”

Löwe was selected after a competitive international search carried out by the MRC and will take up the position in the spring. The current Director Professor Sir Hugh Pelham is retiring after 12 years leading the institute.

Sir John paid tribute to Sir Hugh’s time as Director: “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.”

Löwe joins an illustrious list of LMB directors which, in addition to Sir Hugh, includes Max Perutz, Sydney Brenner, Aaron Klug and Richard Henderson.

Fred Sanger, who was head of the Protein and Nucleic Acid Chemistry Division but not Director, was awarded two Nobels.

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