Nicholas Tonks is a biochemist who studies a group of enzymes known as the protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs). These enzymes remove phosphates from proteins and other molecules, such as lipids, within cells. Nicholas discovered that PTPs control signalling pathways that underlie a broad spectrum of fundamental physiological processes.
Nicholas and his team carry out characterisation studies that have already uncovered many interesting aspects of PTP function. For example, they found that PTPs help to regulate signalling events in breast cancer. This discovery enabled them to identify three PTPs as potential novel tumour suppressors.
PTPs play an important role in the control of cell growth, proliferation, differentiation and transformation. Thus, maintaining an appropriate level of PTPs in cells is essential to human health. Thanks to Nicholas’s fundamental research, drug developers are now able to target these enzymes as part of efforts to produce more effective therapies for a wide range of diseases, including cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.