The MRC PPU is a world class research institute, in which our researchers make use of cutting-edge technology and biochemistry to study cellular and molecular mechanisms that underpin a number of diseases such as neurological disorders, cancer and hypertension. The unit receives core funding from the Medical Research Council, allowing us to tackle major long-term questions, with a focus on the regulation of eukaryotic cell biology and human disease by protein phosphorylation and ubiquitylation. The MRC PPU operates as a focal point between leading life scientists, pharmaceutical companies and clinicians. Our aim is to make a critical contribution to biomedical research, leading to a deeper understanding of diseases and how to treat them.
The unit was founded by Philip Cohen in 1990 as the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit. With support from the Scottish government, Philip then established the ’Scottish Institute of Life Sciences’ alongside the MRC PPU in 2008, to study the mechanisms of protein ubiquitylation and sumoylation and their roles in biology and disease. In 2012, the MRC PPU expanded its remit to reflect the growing importance of protein ubiquitylation, absorbing the SCILLS research groups and thus becoming the MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit (still MRC PPU), under the new directorship of Dario Alessi
The MRC PPU provides a highly collaborative environment for our scientists, enabling us to addressing challenging problems and resulting in the overall strength of our Unit being much greater than the sum of the individual parts. A key aspect of this cooperative spirit has been a unique collaboration involving the MRC PPU, other leading researchers in Dundee’s School of Life Sciences, and a number of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies. Established in 1998 under the umbrella of the ‘Division of Signal Transduction Therapy’ in Dundee's School of Life Sciences, this long-standing collaboration is widely regarded as a model for how academia should interact with industry, for which it was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education in 2006.
The DSTT collaboration was recently renewed for the period 2016-2020, and currently involves Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck Serono. It provides an excellent opportunity for our PhD students and postdoctoral fellows to learn how pharmaceutical companies work and to establish collaborations. The aim is to accelerate the development of future drugs that target specific phosphorylation and ubiquitylation systems for the improved treatment of disease. Via the DSTT, our unit also generates a wide range of reagents that help the collaborating companies to set up screens and identify and characterise inhibitors. In return for investing in the MRC PPU, the participating companies have access to our unpublished results, technology, expertise and reagents, as well as first rights to license our intellectual property.
Inspired by the DSTT collaboration, the MRC PPU also provides reagents and services to researchers around the world in the fields of protein phosphorylation and ubiquitylation. In addition, the MRC PPU provides a DNA sequencing service that generates valuable additional income for our research. The generation of so many reagents in the MRC PPU stimulated the establishment of the start-up company, Ubiquigent Limited, which exploits research and expertise based in MRC PPU. The company currently offers many reagents, kits and drug discovery services, from which the MRC PPU receives royalties that are re-invested in our research programmes.