Prof. Nicholas Tonks, Ph.D.
Professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Nick Tonks was awarded a BA in Biochemistry from Oxford University, and a PhD in Biochemistry
from the University of Dundee, working with Prof. Sir Philip Cohen. From 1985-88 he performed
postdoctoral studies in the laboratory of one of the pioneers in the field of protein
phosphorylation, Prof. Edmond Fischer (1992 Nobel Laureate), in the Department of Biochemistry
at the University of Washington and in 1988 he accepted a faculty position there as Research
Assistant Professor. In 1990 he joined the faculty of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and was promoted to full Professor in 1995.
While at the UW, he was the first to isolate a protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP), the enzyme PTP1B, and he went on to show that this was the prototype for a large family of such enzymes that play a critical, direct role in the regulation of cell signaling. His research has made important contributions to establishing the fundamental importance of PTPs under normal and pathophysiological conditions, with disruption of their function underlying several major human diseases. He takes a multidisciplinary approach to characterizing the structure, regulation and function of members of the PTP family, with the overall objective of exploiting these enzymes as new therapeutic targets and as the basis for novel therapeutic strategies through which to address major diseases.
Dr. Tonks has published ~200 papers in the field (H index 92) and has 11 issued patents. He has been funded by the NIH continually for the last 25 years, since starting his own lab. His research has been recognized by several awards, including the Colworth Medal for 1993, which is awarded annually by the British Biochemical Society to an outstanding British Biochemist under the age of 35, and he was a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences from 1991-95. In 2001, he was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society, which is the National Academy of Sciences of the UK. In 2012 he was awarded a Vallee Foundation Visiting Professorship.
He has extensive industrial experience as a consultant for several companies and as scientific founder of CEPTYR Inc., a small biotechnology company that focused on the development of therapeutics that target the protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP) family of enzymes. In 2014, he was the scientific founder of DepYmed Inc., a company that was established to develop novel small molecule inhibitors of PTP1B, such as MSI-1436/Trodusquemine, as clinical candidates. In 2016, he became a Founding Scientific Advisor for ArRETT Neurosciences, a company that was established to develop new therapeutic strategies for treatment of Rett syndrome.