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MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit in Cambridge announces new Director

28 March 2012


The Medical Research Council and the University of Cambridge are delighted to announce that Dr Massimo Zeviani MD has been appointed as the Honorary Director of the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit in Cambridge. DrZeviani is currently the Director of the Unit of Molecular Neurogenetics at the National Neurological Institute 'Carlo Besta' in Milan, Italy, a post he has held since 2001. He will succeed Professor Sir John Walker who steps down as Director in December 2012. Professor Walker was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1997 and was knighted in 1999 for his services to molecular biology.


The MRC will award Dr Zeviani an MRC Research Professorship to be held at the University of Cambridge to support the strategic partnership between the University and the Unit. The Regent House of the University will be asked to establish a Professorship for Dr Zeviani to hold from the15 November 2012.Dr Zevianiis a clinician scientist and his principal interests are in understanding mitochondrial disorders. Previously, DrZeviani was the Director of the Unit of Biochemistry and Genetics at the National Neurological Institute and before that was Director of the Unit of Molecular Medicine at the Children’s Hospital ‘Bambino Gesu’ in Rome. Disorders of the mitochondrion are now being identified in a wide range of diseases, and his appointment will both enable the Unit to build on its outstanding research achievements under the leadership of Sir John Walker, and to extend them into new approaches for diagnosis and treatment.


DrZeviani said, “It’s a great honour for me to have been offered by the MRCthe opportunity to take the baton from Professor Sir John Walker. I have accepted withenthusiasm this position, being well aware of the record of exceptionalscientific achievements that the MBU has obtained in the past several years. The MBU has made outstanding contributions to unravelling fundamental issues inmitochondrial biology, such as the molecular basis of mitochondrial energyproduction, the maintenance and expression of mitochondrial DNA, and themechanisms of cross talk between mitochondria and other cell compartments.This is the result of the scientific prowess and strong dedication of theMBU scientists. My main goal is to merge the wealth of expertise developed at the MBU on mitochondrial biology with mitochondrial medicine, so as to makeprogress in understanding the mechanisms of mitochondrial dysfunctionleading to disease and hopefully develop effective treatments. This is anattractive challenge and an extraordinary opportunity for me, which I will takewith great enthusiasm and full commitment.”


Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the MRC said “The Medical Research Council is thrilled to be welcoming Dr Massimo Zeviani to the MRC family as the next Director of the Mitochondrial Biology Unit, which has been so successfully created and driven forward by Professor Sir John Walker. Massimo’s appointment will help the unit develop still further its commitment to translate excellent discovery science into the clinical development pathway, aiming towards patient benefit.”


Professor Sir Patrick Sissons, Head of the Universityof the CambridgeSchool of Clinical Medicine said, "I welcome Dr Zeviani to Cambridge on behalf of the University.  I and my colleagues in the School of Clinical Medicine look forward to his joining us and to the opportunities, building on the foundations laid by Professor Sir John Walker, for collaborative work with the Unit on the growing and important group of mitochondrial disorders." 

Professor Sir John Walker, present Director of the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit said, “I am delighted that the MRC has appointed Dr Massimo Zeviani as my successor as Director of the MBU. He is known widely for his expertise in the diagnosis of human diseases arising from the dysfunction of mitochondria, and for understanding their origins. His achievements complement the discoveries made in the MBU that have led to a deep understanding of the production of cellular energy in mitochondria, and of the replication of the mitochondrial genome. It can be anticipated that his leadership will facilitate the translation of these fundamental discoveries into benefits for human health.”


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