University of Dundee

Appointment of new Principal and Vice-Chancellor - Prof Pete Downes OBE FRSE

10 Jul 2009

The new Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee was announced on Monday 6th July as Professor Pete Downes.

Pete Downes has been Acting Principal since the departure of Sir Alan Langlands earlier this year to become Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Pete arrived in Dundee 19 years ago and has served, from 1994, as the Head of the Department of Biochemistry, the Head of the School of Life Sciences and, since 2003, the Head of the College of Life Sciences (CLS).

He has led Life Sciences through momentous changes and the College is immensely grateful to him for his energy and enthusiasm and scientific and managerial skills. CLS has expanded almost 3-fold under his watch. We will miss him greatly in the College and but we are pleased that he will not be too far away in the University Tower. Most importantly, he carries with him the total confidence and support of CLS into his new and important role.

Pete Downes has a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Birmingham and worked for ten years in the commercial pharmaceutical sector prior to his appointment as Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Dundee in 1989.

Since that time, his career has been characterised by outstanding scientific achievement and academic leadership. He has played a key role in developing Life Sciences at Dundee as a centre for excellence in biological and biomedical research, Life Sciences learning and teaching and as a major contributor to the Scottish economy. The establishment of the Division of Signal Transduction Therapy (DSTT) with Professor Sir Philip Cohen, a collaboration with several major pharmaceutical companies, is a notable example of the latter.

His national influence on Life Sciences has also been considerable, for example, he has served with distinction as Chair of The Biochemical Society and as a Member of the Council of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Pete Downes is a very distinguished biochemist who identified the mechanism of action of the drug (Lithium) used to treat manic depression, and who also played a key role in the identification of the chemical mediator by which insulin exerts it effects on the body. For these discoveries he was awarded the Colworth Medal (the National under 35 prize) of the British Biochemical Society in 1987 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1991. He is internationally recognised for his work on many aspects of inositol lipid dependent signalling pathways in diabetes and cancer.

On his appointment to Principal Pete said, 'It is a great privilege to be offered the opportunity to lead the University of Dundee as we build upon areas of outstanding strength and promise for the future. I am fortunate to have developed my academic career in parallel with the impressive growth of the University in recent years, and some of the factors that attracted me here nearly twenty years ago are highly relevant today'.

'These include the relentless pursuit of excellence against international benchmarks; ensuring our strengths in research impact upon the learning experience and employability of our students; and contributing to the economic development and cultural richness of Dundee.'

'These values are increasingly recognised by both the Scottish and Westminster governments as university funding is linked to its impact on society. Dundee is well placed to thrive in this new setting and I look forward to my role in leading the University as it drives towards excellence and relevance in all that it does.'

We wish him well in his new role and echo his goals and objectives.