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Drug discovery researcher Professor Paul Workman awarded prestigious AAAS Fellowship

A shoulder-up portrait of Professor Paul Workman in a black suit and black shirt.

Image: Professor Paul Workman.

Professor Paul Workman, former Chief Executive and President of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, from 2014 to 2021, has been elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one of the most distinguished honours in the scientific community.

Professor Workman is among 508 scientists, engineers and innovators who have been selected as 2022 Fellows for their scientifically and socially distinguished achievements throughout their careers. He is the first Fellow to have been elected from the ICR, and one of only five Fellows in the 2022 cohort to have been recognised from the UK.

A remarkable career

Joining the ICR in 1997 as Director of the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit — a position he held until 2016 — Professor Workman has worked at the ICR for 25 years, including seven years as Chief Executive. He has worked in cancer research – in both academia and industry for almost 50 years.

During his career Professor Workman has been responsible for the discovery of several cancer drug candidates, including pathfinding inhibitors of the HSP90 molecular chaperone and the PI3 kinase family of signalling enzymes. He played a key role in the discovery of the AKT inhibitor capivasertib, which recently produced hugely encouraging results in a phase III trial in advanced breast cancer. These findings are expected to lead to regulatory approvals around the world.

Professor Workman remains active in drug discovery. The most recent drug arising from his team, the first-in-class HSF1 pathway inhibitor NXP800, has recently entered a clinical trial. Paul is also passionate about chemical probes for use in functional protein annotation and drug discovery and serves as Director of the Chemical Probes Portal – a free, public resource to support the selection and use of high-quality chemical probes. In addition, he was the originator of the Pharmacological Audit Trial, which is widely used for biomarker-led drug development.

Professor Workman’s contributions to cancer research and drug discovery have led to numerous individual and team awards. The AAAS has recognised him with this prestigious fellowship “for distinguished contributions to multidisciplinary, team science approaches to cancer drug discovery and development and to bringing anticancer drugs to the clinic for personalized molecular medicine.”

‘I feel enormously privileged’

Professor Paul Workman, Harrap Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the ICR, said:

“I feel deeply honoured and delighted to be elected by my scientific peers as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“Throughout my career, I have championed the power of bringing together people from many different disciplines to form high-performing R&D teams that can achieve astonishing things by being so much more than the sum of the very talented individual parts. By working in this way I have been fortunate, with the help of so many gifted trainees, colleagues and collaborators, both in academia and also in the biopharma industry, to discover and bring to the clinic a number of innovative cancer drugs that benefit cancer patients through their use in personalized molecular medicine.

“I would like to dedicate my election to all the exceptional people I have worked with in my career – particularly during my 25 years at the ICR – and to the many patients that have taken part in the trials of the drugs that we have discovered together.

“I feel enormously privileged to have been given the opportunity to conduct drug discovery team science and to contribute to improving the lives of people affected by cancer.”

Professor Kristian Helin, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:

“We’re immensely proud that Professor Paul Workman has been elected as a AAAS Fellow. This significant award recognises the life-changing work that he has dedicated his life to pursuing, and we are so pleased that the AAAS has acknowledged the incredible impact he’s made in cancer drug discovery, here at the ICR and elsewhere, on behalf of people with cancer.”

A lifetime honour

The AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals. A tradition dating back to 1874, election as a AAAS Fellow is a lifetime honour. Distinguished past honourees include Thomas Edison, Mae Jemison, W.E.B. DuBois and Grace Hopper.

Sudip Parikh, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals, said:

“AAAS is excited to announce the newest class of fellows from across the scientific enterprise in a tradition dating back nearly 150 years and to honour their broad range of achievements.”

The AAAS will organise an in-person gathering in Washington D.C. in Spring 2023 to celebrate the new class, who will also be featured in February 2023 issue of Science.

Professor Paul Workman writes about the challenges facing the cancer drug ecosystem on his blog The Drug Discoverer.

Read The Drug Discoverer


Paul Workman award drug discovery Fellowship AAAS
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