Sussex geneticist elected Fellow of the Royal Society

Prof Alan Lehmann FRS

University of Sussex geneticist Alan Lehmann has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), the country's top scientific honour.

Alan, Professor of Molecular Genetics and chairman of the University of Sussex Genome Damage and Stability Centre, learned today (21 May) of the honour, which recognises his pioneering research into forms of rare cancer-prone diseases.

Election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society - the UK's national academy of science - is recognised world-wide as a sign of the highest regard in science. A maximum of only 44 Fellows are elected annually. Candidates must be proposed by at least six existing Fellows and are assessed by committees in each major field of science.

Welcoming the announcement, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing, says: "This honour is long overdue and richly deserved. Alan has made an extraordinary contribution to our understanding of DNA stability and repair."

Alan has been at Sussex since 1971, first as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Biochemistry department, and then from 1973-2001 as a senior scientist and professor of molecular genetics at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Cell Mutation Unit.

In 2001, he co-founded the Genome Damage and Stability Centre at the University, one of the UK's foremost centres for cancer research.

He was elected to the Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2004, has received many research grants from the MRC and the European Union and has published more than 280 scientific articles.

Throughout his career, he has investigated the ways in which our cells are able to repair damage inflicted on the DNA molecules that make up our genes.

"Ultraviolet light from the sun causes lots of damage in the DNA of our skin," explains Alan. "Most of us can repair this damage.

"However, people with some rare hereditary diseases are unable to repair this damage and, as a result, they have many skin problems caused by exposure to sunlight, including a high incidence of skin cancer. Some of the affected people also develop neurological problems."

Alan has worked out how cells are able to repair different types of DNA damage; why some people are unable to repair the damage; and how this leads to cancer and other clinical symptoms.

Professor Laurence Pearl, Head of the School of Life Sciences, says: "Alan's work is a fantastic example of how basic curiosity-driven research delivers important insights into human diseases.

"The Genome Damage and Stability Centre is a world-renowned jewel in Sussex's crown, and lies at the heart of the new multi-disciplinary developments that will bring Sussex into the top-10 in UK life sciences research."

As a side-line of Alan's research, he runs a special laboratory service to help patients and their families diagnose three rare hereditary disorders; Sussex is the only place in the UK where these can be diagnosed.

He has also been involved in setting up the only one-stop clinic in the country, where leading experts are gathered together to diagnose and treat these conditions.

Alan will be admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Society at a ceremony on 16 July, following a seminar and dinner on 14-15 July.

He said: "I am absolutely delighted and honoured to be awarded the FRS. It's a very rewarding recognition of the research that I've done at Sussex over the past 35 years. Of course, it wouldn't have been possible without the superb efforts of the excellent postdocs, students and technicians who have worked in my lab over the years."

Notes for Editors


Find out more about the Genome Damage and Stability Centre at:

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune, Jacqui Bealing and Danielle Treanor. Tel: 01273 678 209 or email

Last updated: Friday, 21 May 2010