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World-renowned scientist to lead Cardiff School of Biosciences

19 January 2010

Professor Ole Petersen CBE, a Fellow of The Royal Society and one of the most eminent and respected figures in international Biomedical Science, has come to Cardiff University as Director of the School of Biosciences.

Born in Denmark, Professor Petersen came to the UK in 1975, where he has made breakthroughs in understanding how calcium ions can trigger a range of events in cells in the body, particularly the pancreas. This has implications for understanding pancreatitis, where over-active enzymes can digest the pancreas itself, and pancreatic cancer, one of the most lethal forms of all cancers. He made headlines when his team at the University of Liverpool were the first to explain how binge drinking can cause pancreatitis.

Professor Petersen has more than 300 academic articles to his name, including 14 published in Nature, and has been cited more than 16,000 times in the scientific literature. His achievements have led to many awards, including a Fellowship of the Royal Society and being appointed a Commander of the British Empire in 2008 for his services to science. He was also Vice-President of the Royal Society in 2005-6 and has just completed nine years as Secretary-General of the International Union of Physiological Sciences. The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters held a symposium in his honour in 2008.

Professor Petersen’s priorities at Cardiff include enhancing the School’s existing world-leading research. He is already establishing a Scientific Advisory Board of distinguished academic figures who can advise on research policy and promote the School around the world. He also plans to develop links between teaching and research at the School, so students can be more involved in the cutting-edge discoveries being made in their fields.

Professor Petersen will also continue his own Medical Research Council-funded research, working with the School’s existing research team on cell physiology. He is keen to further explore implications of his existing breakthroughs in understanding the mechanisms causing disease.

Professor Petersen joins the School at an exciting time in its history. The past year has seen the creation of the Arthritis Research Campaign Biomechanics and Bioengineering Centre and its involvement in the new Cardiff Cancer Research UK Centre. The School has a range of industrial partnerships to help take its research from the laboratory to the clinic and has conducted vital research around the world on endangered species and ecosystems. A major construction project, planned for completion this year, will give the School a new extension and a striking new look to its front facade.

Professor Petersen said: "I was keen to come to Cardiff because I knew the School of Biosciences to be very good scientifically over a wide range of areas, including neuroscience, genetics, biodiversity and ecology. This brings benefits in many areas, including healthcare breakthroughs, biodiversity conservation and the training of the next generations of bioscientists. The challenge for me will be to manage and build on this excellence over such a wide area."

Cardiff University
Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professor Sir Martin Evans.
Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning.
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Cardiff School of Biosciences

Cardiff’s School of Biosciences holds a world-leading reputation, addressing major questions which face health and life scientists. In 2007, one of its members, Professor Sir Martin Evans, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his ground-breaking discovery of stem cells. Professor Sir Martin has helped build a strong research base in stem cell research and regenerative medicine at the School. Other major research areas include biodiversity and ecology, with significant discoveries about some of the world’s most endangered species. The School also houses the Common Cold Centre, the world’s only centre dedicated to flu and the common cold. The School has achieved top gradings in national, independent ratings of its teaching of biology, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, and its pre-clinical training for doctors and dentists. It also has an extensive programme of public engagement, so that the NHS, industry and the general public can learn more about its research.


Professor Ole Petersen is a Medical Research Council (MRC) Professor, leading an MRC-supported research group working on calcium ion signalling. From 1st February 2010, Chair and Director of Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences. Previously Chairman of Physiology Department at Liverpool University (1981-1998; in this period the only consistently top-rated department in its category in all national research assessment exercises.
He pioneered single channel current recording in epithelial cells, characterizing Ca2+-activated ion channels (ISI Citation Classic: Petersen & Maruyama Nature 1984). Discovered physiological local Ca2+ signalling events in epithelial cells (Thorn et al Cell 1993), messenger-mediated Ca2+ release from the nuclear envelope (Gerasimenko et al Cell 1995) and intracellular Ca2+ tunnels (Mogami et al Cell 1997). Recently demonstrated the crucial role of IP3 receptors in the initiation of alcohol-related pancreatitis (Gerasimenko et al PNAS 2009).
He received Nordic Insulin Foundation’s Jacobaeus Prize (1994) and Czech Academy of Sciences’ Purkynĕ Medal (2003). Foreign Member of Royal Danish Academy of Sciences & Letters (1988), Founding Member of Academia Europaea (1988), Founding Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci) (1998), Fellow of The Royal Society (FRS) (2000), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP) (2001) and Honorary Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (2004). Appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for ‘Services to Science’ (2008).
He was recently appointed Chair of the European Research Council’s Starting Grant Panel for Physiology, Pathophysiology and Endocrinology (2009 - ). Member of The Royal Society/Wolfson Research Merit Awards Committee (2008 - ). Former Vice-President of The Royal Society (2005-2006) and in this period Chair of the Royal Society’s Working Group responding to the UK Government’s plan for a new type of national research assessment. Member of the Panel for Pre-clinical & Human Biological Sciences in the last UK National Research Assessment Exercise. Chair of Academia Europaea’s Nominations Committee (2004 - ), with overall responsibility for the competitive annual elections to membership, and Member of the Academy’s Executive Board and Council.
Since 2003, Professor Petersen has been Chair of the European Editorial Committee (European Executive Editor) of the American Physiological Society’s flagship journal Physiological Reviews, with responsibility for the European component (~50%) of the journal’s output (Physiological Reviews currently has an Impact Factor [IF] of 35.00 and is ranked as no. 5 of ALL scientific journals with respect to IF). Secretary General of the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS) (2001 - 2009) and Co-Chair of the International Scientific Program Committees for the last two International (IUPS) Congresses of Physiological Sciences (San Diego 2005, Kyoto 2009). Elected Honorary President of the next IUPS International Congress of Physiological Sciences (Birmingham, UK, 2013).

Lowri Jones
Public Relations Office
Cardiff University
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