Julian Downward

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Julian Downward
Julian Downward 5.jpg
Born (1960-10-25) 25 October 1960 (age 58)[1]
Scientific career
FieldsCancer biology[2]
ThesisThe structure and function of the receptor for epidermal growth factor (1986)
Doctoral advisorMichael Waterfield
Other academic advisorsRobert Weinberg

(David) Julian (Harry) Downward[clarification needed] (born 25 October 1960)[1] FRS FMedSci is Associate Research Director at the  Francis Crick Institute and Senior Group Leader at the Institute of Cancer Research.[3] He was formerly head of the Signal transduction Laboratory at the London Research Institute.[4][5][6][2] He is a member of the Editorial Board for Cell.[7]


Downward was educated at Eton College and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Natural Sciences from Clare College, Cambridge.[1] His PhD was supervised by Michael Waterfield at the Imperial Cancer Research Fiund where he investigated Epidermal growth factor receptor, establishing in 1984 the close similarity between this cellular growth regulatory protein and the avian retroviral oncogene, v-erbB.[8] This work led to the identification of the closely related cellular oncogene ErbB2/HER2, which is over-expressed in a major subset of breast cancers and is the target of the important targeted therapy, trastuzumab.[9] From 1986 to 1989, he was a postdoctoral researcher with Robert Weinberg, at the Whitehead Institute for biomedical research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[10][11]


Downward's research investigates cancer biology. His work on the Ras GTPase has made seminal contributions to our understanding of how cellular signal transduction pathways are subverted in oncogenic transformation. His work provided the first demonstration that Guanosine triphosphate-loading on Ras, which is commonly mutationally activated in human tumours, is normally regulated in response to extracellular factors; he went on to characterise growth factor receptor complexes mediating Ras nucleotide exchange, and to demonstrate that GTP-bound Ras binds to and activates the RAF kinase, which controls the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. Julian was first to demonstrate that phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) is also a Ras effector, important in regulation of apoptosis. He showed that transformation by Ras requires interaction with multiple effectors, which contribute differentially to cell cycle progression, cytoskeletal regulation and apoptosis. His work has established that both cell matrix and cell–cell interaction activate the PI 3-kinase/PKB pathway, and thereby prevent programmed cell death, and that it is activation of this pathway by oncogenic Ras that allows anchorage-independent growth of transformed cells.[3][12] Most recently he has focused on identifying unique weaknesses of cancer cells expressing the activated Ras oncogene using a combination of large-scale functional genomics and pre-clinical models of lung cancer.

Awards and honours[edit]

Downward was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2005.[3] He was also elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2009 and was a member of the Faculty of 1000 from 2001 to 2005.[13] He is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (1995) and an honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (2012).

Personal life[edit]

Downward is the son of Major General Sir Peter Aldcroft Downward, KCVO, CB, DSO, DFC.[1][9][14]


  1. ^ a b c d DOWNWARD, Prof. Julian. ukwhoswho.com. Who's Who. 2016 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription or UK public library membership required) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b Julian Downward publications indexed by Google Scholar
  3. ^ a b c "Dr Julian Downward FMedSci FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 19 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:

    “All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

  4. ^ "Professor Julian Downward: Team Leader". London: Institute of Cancer Research. Archived from the original on 7 September 2015.
  5. ^ Downward, Julian (2003). "Targeting RAS signalling pathways in cancer therapy". Nature Reviews Cancer. 3 (1): 11–22. doi:10.1038/nrc969. ISSN 1474-175X. PMID 12509763.
  6. ^ Castellano, E.; Downward, J. (2011). "RAS Interaction with PI3K: More Than Just Another Effector Pathway". Genes & Cancer. 2 (3): 261–274. doi:10.1177/1947601911408079. ISSN 1947-6019. PMC 3128635. PMID 21779497.
  7. ^ https://www.cell.com/cell/editorial-board
  8. ^ Downward, David Julian Harry (1986). The structure and function of the receptor for epidermal growth factor (PhD thesis). University of London. OCLC 940270478.
  9. ^ a b Kathleen Weston (2014). Blue Skies & Bench Space: Adventures in Cancer Research. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. ISBN 978-1-621820-77-2.
  10. ^ "Julian Downward". rnaiglobal.org. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  11. ^ J. Downward; J. de Gunzburg; R. Riehl; R. A. Weinberg (1988). "p21ras-induced responsiveness of phosphatidylinositol turnover to bradykinin is a receptor number effect". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 85 (16): 5774–5778. doi:10.1073/pnas.85.16.5774. PMC 281847. PMID 2901087. open access
  12. ^ Julian Downward: RAS and PI 3-kinase Signaling Networks in Cancer talk, presented at the 2010 Koch Institute Summer Symposium on YouTube
  13. ^ "Julian Downward". f1000.com
  14. ^ "Major-General Sir Peter Downward - obituary". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 7 February 2016.