After graduating with 1st class Honours in Biochemistry from the University of Strathclyde, Ian did his Ph.D. at the Beatson Institute, Glasgow. During this time he discovered that UGA, normally a ‘stop’ codon, encodes the 21st amino acid selenocysteine.
Ian then performed post-doctoral studies with Nobel Laureate, Paul Berg (Stanford) and after returning to the UK, with Austin Smith. During that time Ian & Austin co-discovered (with Shinya Yamanaka and colleagues) the transcription factor, Nanog, which they named after Tir nan Og, the Celtic Land-of-the-Ever-Young, based on its overexpression phenotype. Ian is now a group leader at the Institute for Stem cell Research within the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Edinburgh.
In 2007, Ian demonstrated the existence of cells within the pluripotent compartment defined by lowered expression of Nanog that are primed for, but uncommitted to differentiation and that can fluctuate back to a high Nanog expressing, differentiation-resistant state.
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