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Ole Petersen

Professor Ole Petersen CBE FMedSci FRS


Elected: 2000


Ole Petersen is a medical doctor and physiologist whose research has uncovered how excessive intracellular release and subsequent entry of calcium ions cause activation of digestive enzymes inside pancreatic cells. This process leads to acute pancreatitis and an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

The pancreas secretes a cocktail of enzymes that normally become activated in the gut to help break down proteins, fat and carbohydrates. However, gallstones or an excessive intake of alcohol can lead to activation of these enzymes inside pancreatic cells, which then digest the pancreas itself. Ole has identified a calcium-binding molecule inside pancreatic cells that, when boosted by introducing a calcium-like molecule to the pancreas, offers intrinsic protection against inappropriate enzyme activity.

Ole has also shown that specific pharmacological inhibition of entry pathways for calcium ions markedly reduces the excess enzyme activity and subsequent cell death and inflammation. His significant research was acknowledged by the award of CBE in the 2008 New Year Honours and election to the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina, in 2010.

Professional positions

MRC Professor, Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University
Academic Director, Academia Europaea
Chair of Biomedical & Life Sciences Class, Academia Europaea
Member of Executive Board, Academia Europaea
Champion for Wales, Academy of Medical Sciences
Vice-President, Learned Society of Wales

Interests and expertise

Subject groups


Calcium antagonist therapy, Calcium imaging, Electrophysiology, Pancreas, pathophysiology