On Thursday 1 June 2023, the Department hosted the annual Sir Hans Krebs Prize Lecture, this year titled "Metabolic regulation of insulin secretion in health and disease" by Professor Dame Frances Ashcroft DBE, FRS, FMedSci.
Professor Ashcroft's research focuses on the role that ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channels play in insulin secretion, in both health and disease, particularly in the context of neonatal and type 2 diabetes. One of her landmark discoveries identified the missing link connecting an increase in blood sugar levels to the secretion of the hormone insulin – this link was the KATP channel. In collaboration with Professor Hattersley (Exeter University) she unravelled how genetic mutations in the KATP channel cause a rare inherited form of diabetes, in which patients develop diabetes soon after birth. This has enabled people with these mutations to switch from insulin injections to tablet therapy.
Professor Ashcroft's work has been recognised by numerous awards and prizes, including the L'Oréal/UNESCO for Women in Science Award (European Laureate) in 2012, the Croonian Lecture of the Royal Society in 2013, the Albert Renold Prize (European Association for the Study of Diabetes) and the Walter B. Cannon Award in 2007, the Jacobaeus Prize of the NovoNordisk Foundation in 2014, the Dale Medal from the Society for Endocrinology and the Debrecen Prize for Molecular Medicine in 2020, the 2022 Banting Medal for Scientific Achievement, the 2022 Manpei Suzuki International Prize for Diabetes Research, and the Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science in 2023. In 2015, she was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2015 for services to science and the public understanding of science.
Sir Hans Adolf Krebs first gained international recognition for his discovery of the urea cycle in 1931, considered a milestone in biochemistry. In 1953, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for his second major discovery, the critic acid cycle, later known as the ‘Krebs Cycle’. This discovery provided us with an explanation of one of the most fundamental processes of life: the conversion of food into energy within a cell.
Krebs came to Oxford University in 1954 as Whitley Professor of Biochemistry and a fellow of Trinity College. He brought with him the Medical Research Council Unit for Research in Cell Metabolism, to the Metabolic Research Laboratory in the Radcliffe Infirmary.
After the lecture, attendees gathered for a drinks reception in the Sherrington reception foyer, where Professor Ashcroft took time to network with both departmental and wider university staff and students.