Jim Cuthbert Smith

James Cuthbert Smith
Born (1954-12-31) 31 December 1954
Alma mater
Thesis Studies of positional signalling along the antero-posterior axis of the developing chick limb (1979)
Doctoral advisor Lewis Wolpert[1]
Notable awards Waddington Medal
Spouse Fiona Watt (m. 1979)

James Cuthbert Smith (born 31 December 1954)[2] FMedSci FRS is Deputy Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council in the UK and the Director of Research at the Francis Crick Institute.[3][4][5][6][1]


Smith was educated at Latymer Upper School[2] and graduated from the University of Cambridge with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Natural Sciences in 1976.[1] He was awarded a PhD in 1979 by University College London (UCL) for research supervised by Lewis Wolpert at Middlesex Hospital Medical School.[1][7][8][9][10]

Career and research

Smith completed postdoctoral research appointments at Harvard Medical School from 1979–81 and Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK) from 1981-84. In 1984 he joined the staff of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), becoming head of the Division of Developmental Biology in 1991. He moved to become director of the Gurdon Institute in 2001, returning to NIMR in 2009 to become its director. In 2014 he became Deputy CEO of the Medical Research Council.[3]

Smith's research has focused on how cells of the very early vertebrate embryo form the specialised tissues of muscle, skin, blood and bone.[8] His discovery of a mesoderm-inducing factor secreted by a cell line and establishing its identity as activin transformed the study of induction in the early embryo. He also showed that activin specifies different cell types at different thresholds and that characteristic genes like Brachyury[11] are turned on at specific concentrations. His earlier work demonstrated threshold responses in chick limb development and also showed that the mitogenic response to growth factors can be active when attached to the extracellular matrix.[3]

Awards and honours

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1993.[3][8] He was awarded the Waddington Medal by the British Society for Developmental Biology in 2013.[12] In 2014 he was named by the London Evening Standard as one of the 1000 most influential Londoners,[13] in the 'Innovators' section.

Personal life

Smith married Fiona Watt in 1979 and has three children.[2]


  1. 1 2 3 4 Weston, Kathy (2010). "The accidental biologist: an interview with Jim Smith". Disease Models & Mechanisms. 3 (1-2): 11–14. doi:10.1242/dmm.004952. PMID 20075376.
  2. 1 2 3 SMITH, Dr James Cuthbert. Who's Who. 2016 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
  3. 1 2 3 4 Anon (2015). "Dr Jim Smith FMedSci FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:
    “All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 2015-09-25. Retrieved 2016-03-09.
  4. Professor Jim Smith on Twitter
  5. Watts, Geoff (2016). "Jim Smith: biologist at the heart of embryonic Francis Crick Institute". The Lancet. 387 (10031): 1899. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30409-3. PMID 27203642.
  6. "Jim Smith: Developmental Biology Laboratory". London: crick.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 2016-06-07.
  7. Smith, James Cuthbert (1979). Studies of positional signalling along the antero - posterior axis of the developing chick limb. (PhD thesis). University College London (University of London). OCLC 500567020.
  8. 1 2 3 "James Cuthbert Smith FRS". London: historyofnimr.org.uk. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.
  9. MRC National Institute for Medical Research (2013). A Century of Science for Health. MRC National Institute for Medical Research.
  10. Smith, Jim (1999). "T-box genes: what they do and how they do it". Trends in Genetics. 15 (4): 154–158. doi:10.1016/S0168-9525(99)01693-5.
  11. Marcellini, S.; Technau, U.; Smith, J.; Lemaire, P. (2003). "Evolution of Brachyury proteins: identification of a novel regulatory domain conserved within Bilateria". Developmental Biology. 260 (2): 352–361. doi:10.1016/S0012-1606(03)00244-6. PMID 12921737.
  12. "Jim Smith awarded the Waddington Medal". MRC National Institute for Medical Research. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  13. Anon (2014). "The 1000 - London's most influential people 2014: Innovators". standard.co.uk. London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 2015-06-18.
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