Press release

Professor Sir Philip Cohen marks 50th anniversary in Dundee

Published on 7 October 2021

Professor Sir Philip Cohen, one of the major influences in establishing Dundee as an international centre of excellence in life sciences research, has marked his 50th anniversary of joining the University of Dundee.

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Sir Philip is now looking to encourage the next generation of researchers with the launch of a charity to support PhD scholarships for the next 24 years, in memory of his late wife Tricia.

The Tricia Cohen Memorial Fund will fund six PhD Studentships that will run consecutively from 2022 until 2044, the year in which Tricia would have reached the age of 100. 

Sir Philip said, “I am delighted to have reached the half century at Dundee and to have witnessed and been part of the remarkable growth we have seen in life sciences here.

“When I arrived in October 1971 the signs were not hugely promising. The tiny Biochemistry department was housed in a converted stable block and the flat I rented from the University turned out to have a serious damp problem.

“But Professor Peter Garland had not long started here as the first Professor of Biochemistry, and he was able to convince me that good things were going to be happening in Dundee. That was a very brave thing to say in itself but we made it happen. That has always been the real strength here – we have managed to attract people who have the talent, the scientific expertise, and the determination to make things happen.

“With my family I have now launched the Memorial Trust in Tricia’s name to encourage the next generation of talented scientists.”

Sir Philip is among the most honoured scientists in the UK, receiving a host of awards over the course of an illustrious career, including election to the Fellowships of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Society of London (1984), The Pfizer Award for Innovative Science in Europe (1999), The Prix van Gysel of the Belgian Royal Societies of Medicine (2003), The Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine from Hungary, The Rolf Luft Prize of the Karolinska Institute, Sweden (2006), the Swiss Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine (2007), Foreign Associate of the USA National Academy of Science (2008) and the Australian Academy of Science (2014), the Medical Research Council’s Millennium Medal (2013) and the Albert Einstein World Award of Science (2014).

He has published nearly 600 research papers and according to Thomson Scientific, Philadelphia, he was the world’s second most cited scientist in the field of biology and biochemistry from 1992-2003. 

Sir Philip is a biochemist who has made major contributions to our understanding of protein phosphorylation (the attachment of phosphate to proteins) and its role in cell regulation and human disease. Abnormalities in phosphorylation cause many diseases, including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson’s. Over 75 drugs that target protein kinases, the enzymes that attach phosphate to proteins, have been approved for clinical use in the 21st century and have revolutionised the treatment of many cancers, saving millions of lives.

Among his major findings was the discovery of how insulin works.

Although now 76, he is still very much active in research, running a busy laboratory and winning major grant awards for his work.

Throughout his career Sir Philip has been an exceptional mentor of talented young researchers. Well over 100 PhD students and postdoctoral scientists have trained in his laboratory over the past 50 years, with the vast majority now working in senior roles as research leaders in both academia and industry.

He was a driving force behind the building of the Wellcome Trust Biocentre at the University, which opened in 1998, and the Sir James Black Centre, opened in 2006, which form part of the `citadel of science’ that stands out on the city landscape, with the Life Sciences research complex now home to over 800 scientists and associated staff.

Donations to the Tricia Cohen Memorial Trust are welcome, and can be made through the website 

The Trust is also registered with Amazon to receive donations - if you shop at Amazon you can go to and select The Tricia Cohen Memorial Trust as your chosen charity.  Every time you shop, Amazon will donate 0.5% of the value of your basket to our charity.  There is no cost to you - you just have to remember to shop via and not the usual website address.


Roddy Isles

Head of Corporate Communication

+44 (0)1382 384910
Story category Dundee/local community, Staff