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Genetics Society Medal 2013

The Genetics Society is pleased to announce that Professor Robin Allshire (University of Edinburgh) will be awarded the 2013 Genetics Society Medal for his outstanding research contributions to the fields of epigenetics and chromosome biology.

Robin Allshire studied genetics as an undergraduate in Trinity College Dublin before moving to Edinburgh to study for a PhD in the MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit under the guidance of Chris Bostock and Ed Southern.  During this time he investigated factors affecting the behaviour of vectors for propagating DNA in mammalian cells, an interest that naturally led to studies of telomere and centromere structure that have occupied him since.  Robin spent four years as a postdoc with Nick Hastie in what is now the MRC Human Genetics Unit, where he cloned human telomeres and studied their behaviour in cancers.  He showed that telomere length decreases with age and proposed that telomerase is inactive in somatic tissues.  Robin then spent a year as a visiting scientist in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where he started to work with Schizosaccharomyces pombe before returned to Edinburgh to establish his own research group, again at the MRC Human Genetics Unit.  In 2002 he became a Principal Fellow of the Wellcome Trust within the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology at the University of Edinburgh. 

Robin’s attention has turned from telomeres to centromeres and he and his colleagues have demonstrated that normal centromere activity requires that centromeric DNA is in heterochromatin and is dependent on histone modifications, particularly those on Histone H3 and the related protein CENPA.  More recently they have shown that these modifications are added in response to components of the RNAi pathway linking transcription of centromeric sequences to histone modification and centromere integrity.  Robin is recognised internationally as a world leader in the field of epigenetics and chromosome biology.  He was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation in 1988, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2002, and of the Royal Society, London, in 2011.