Image of Dario Alessi
Professor Dario Alessi
T: 44 1382 385602
F: 44 1382 223778

Alison Hart
Administrator & PA to Professor Dario Alessi
T: 44 1382 385602
F: 44 1382 223778
Background Information

Dario Alessi was born in France, attended high school in Brussels and obtained a BSc in Biochemistry from the University of Birmingham, UK in 1988. He received a Ph.D. in 1991 for work on the synthesis and use of spin-labelled ATP analogues to study muscle contraction under the joint supervision of Ian Trayer (University of Birmingham) and David Trentham FRS (National Institute of Medical Research, Mill Hill, London). He then carried out postdoctoral research with Sir Philip Cohen FRS in the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit at Dundee from 1991 to 1997, where he became fascinated by protein kinases and how they control almost all aspects of cell biology.

In 1998 Dario became a Programme Leader in the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit, and assumed the Directorship of the Unit in April 2012. A key focus of his current research is to understand the regulation and physiological roles of poorly understood protein kinases and components of the ubiquitylation system that implicated in human disease. Dario is very keen to exploit findings emerging from his studies to develop novel treatments for disease.

In August 2016 Dario has published over 240 peer-reviewed research papers/reviews that have accumulated over 60000 citations and Dario’s Alessi’s h-index is 114 (i.e. 114 papers cited >1144 times. See Google Scholar for his current h-index and number of citations. In March 2010 Dario Alessi was ranked as 16th most cited biochemist worldwide.

Selected career achievements:
1 Discovered that SGK1 and SGK3 isoforms substitute for Akt protein kinases and therefore render many breast cancer cells that have mutations that elevate PI 3-kinase pathways resistant to Akt and PI3-kinase inhibitors (2013-2106)

2 In collaboration with Matthias Mann we discovered the first physiological substrate for the Parkinson’s disease LRRK2 protein kinase by showing that it directly phosphorylates a subset of the Rab GTPases on an a residue lying within the middle of the effector interacting-switch II domain (2016)

3 In collaboration with Thimo Kurz demonstrated that the KLHL3:CUL3 ubiquitin E3 ligase complex interacts and ubiquitylates WNK isoforms and that hypertension causing mutations in KLHL3 and WNK4 ablate interaction of these components (2012-2013)

4 In collaboration with Miratul Muqit discovered that the Parkinson’s disease PINK1 protein kinase is activated by mitochondrial depolarisation and phosphorylates and stimulates the Parkin E3 ligases catalytic activity (2012)

5 Discovered that mTORC2 controls hydrophobic motif phosphorylation and hence activation of serum and glucocorticoid-induced protein kinase-1 (2008)

6 Developed technologies that are enabling pharmaceutical companies, to develop inhibitors against LRRK2 that may be useful for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease In collaboration with Nathanael Gray helped characterise the highly specific LRRK2-IN1 inhibitor tool compound (2007-2011)

7 In collaboration with Andrew Morris demonstrated that metformin administration significantly reduces risk of cancer in humans (2005) and demonstrated that administration of mice with drugs that activate AMPK suppress tumourigenesis in PTEN+/- animals (2008)

8 Identified and validated the mechanism by which SPAK/OSR1 may regulate blood pressure by controlling activity of NCC and NKCC2 ion co-transporters (2007-2010)

9 Identified the SPAK/OSR1 physiological substrates of the WNK1 and WNK4 protein kinases that are mutated in humans with Gordon’s hypertension syndrome (2005)

10 Demonstrated that reducing the expression of PDK1 in mice inhibited cancer development in PTEN+/- mice, thereby validating PDK1 as an anti-cancer drug target (2005)

11 Discovered that LKB1 phosphorylates and activates AMPK as well as 12 other protein kinases that are related to AMPK (2003-2004)

12 Discovered the mechanism of activation of the LKB1 tumour suppressor protein kinase by demonstrating that it exists in a complex with STRAD and MO25 (2003) and solved the structure of this complex in collaboration with Daan van Aalten (2010) Demonstrated that MO25 functions as a master regulator of many STE20 kinases (2011)

13 Discovered the MSK1 and MSK2 protein kinases that are activated by mitogen and stress-activated signalling pathways (1998)

14 Characterised the mechanism by which PDK1 was regulated and showed that it also activated ~20 other AGC family kinases that are related to PKB/Akt (1998-2002)

15 Discovered and characterised the PDK1 protein kinase that phosphorylated PKB/Akt at Thr308 (1997)

16 Described the mechanism by which PKB/Akt is activated by phosphorylation of Thr308 and Ser473 (1996)

17 Identified ERK1 and ERK2 as the physiological substrates for the CL100/MKP tyrosine phosphatases (1993)

Awards and Honours
1999 Colworth Medal of the Biochemical Society
2000 The Eppendorf Young European Investigator Award
2002 Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
2002 Morgagni Young Investigator Prize
2002 Royal Society of Edinburgh Makdougall Brisbane Prize
2002 Philip Leverhulme Prize
2003 FEBS Anniversary Prize of the Gesellschaft für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie
2004 RD Lawrence Lecture of Diabetes UK
2005 Elected a Member of EMBO
2005 Awarded the EMBO Gold Medal.
2006 Francis Crick Prize Lecture of The Royal Society.
2008 Elected a Fellow of The Royal Society
2012 Elected a Fellow of the Medical Academy of Sciences (UK)
2013 Awarded Sackler Lecture of the Academy of Medical Sciences