Prestigious JR Vane medal returns to Glasgow

Ian McGrath, Regius Professor of Physiology, has been awarded the 2011 JR Vane Medal by the British Pharmacological Society for “outstanding work in autonomic pharmacology/mediators”, particularly for his recent pioneering work on “confocal myography”.

The winner of the JR Vane Medal is invited to give a lecture at the Society’s Winter Meeting, which this year will be in London from 13-15 December 2011. The presentation of the prize (a medal and £1,000) will be made on Wednesday, 14 December 2011 during the BPS Annual Dinner and Prize Giving, which is part of the Society’s 2011 Winter Meeting programme.

The prize-winning work was done with long-term collaborator, Dr Craig Daly, and involves the use of fluorescent drugs on live blood vessels, a field that his laboratory developed from scratch. They combined it with molecular pharmacology to validate it and then with knockout technology to ascertain the cellular and subcellular location of adrenoceptor subtypes within intact blood vessels, with a view to studying receptor translocation mechanisms in native tissues.  This is the basis of their on-going current work supported by British Heart Foundation.

The work for which the award was made shows the development of this approach from the first demonstration of receptor distribution on both isolated cells and intact tissue [1] to the focus on intracellular receptors and translation to human prostate tissue [2], the start of using receptor knockout mice to ascertain the function and location of receptor subtypes [3], the use of molecular pharmacology approaches to determine the mechanisms involved in the internalisation of antagonists [4] and the more recent phase of combining functional pharmacology with fluorescent ligand binding to determine the function of receptors located on both expected and unexpected locations [5,6,7].

  1. Daly, C.J., Milligan, C.M., Milligan, G., Mackenzie, J.F. & McGrath, J.C. (1998) Cellular localisation and pharmacological characterisation of functioning a1-adrenoceptors by fluorescent ligand binding and image analysis reveals identical binding properties of clustered and diffuse populations of receptors. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 286 984-990.
  2. MacKenzie, J.F, Daly, C.J., Pediani, J.D. & McGrath, J.C. (2000) Quantitative imaging in live human cells reveals intracellular a1-adrenoceptor ligand binding sites. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 294 (2) 434-443. 
  3. Daly, C.J., Deighan, C., McGee, A., Mennie, D., Ali, Z., McBride, M. and McGrath, J.C. (2002) A knockout approach indicates a minor vasoconstrictor role for vascular a1B-adrenceptors in mouse. Physiological Genomics: 9: 85-91.
  4. Pediani, J.D., Colston, J.F., Caldwell, D., Milligan, G., Daly, C.J. and McGrath, J.C.  (2005) b-arrestin dependent spontaneous a1a-adrenoceptor endocytosis causes intracellular transportation of a-blockers via recycling compartments.  Mol Pharmacol 67:992-1004  
  5. Methven L, McBride M, Wallace GA, McGrath JC. (2009) The alpha(1B/D)-adrenoceptor knockout mouse permits isolation of the vascular alpha(1A)-adrenoceptor and elucidates its relationship to the other subtypes.  Br J Pharmacol. 158 (1): 209-224 SEP 2009  
  6. Daly CJ, Ross RA, Whyte J, Henstridge CM, Irving AJ, McGrath JC. (2010) Fluorescent ligand binding reveals heterogeneous distribution of adrenoceptors and 'cannabinoid-like' receptors in small arteries. Br J Pharmacol. Feb;159(4):787-96
  7. Daly CJ, McGrath JC. (2011) Previously unsuspected widespread cellular and tissue distribution of β-adrenoceptors and its relevance to drug action. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2011 Apr;32(4):219-26. Epub 2011 Mar 21. PMID: 21429599 [PubMed - in process]



Sir John Robert Vane FRS (29 March 1927 – 19 November 2004) was a distinguished pharmacologist who was Director of R&D at the Wellcome Foundation. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1982 for his work on prostaglandins, which explained, among other things, how aspirin works.

To commemorate his achievements, the British Pharmacological Society have awarded the JR Vane Medal annually since 2001 for outstanding achievements in designated areas of pharmacology.  Recent winners include Professor Robin Irvine FRS, University of Cambridge (2010), Professor Christopher Garland, University of Oxford (2009) and Professor Humphrey Rang FRS, formerly of Novartis (2007).  The first recipient, and the only other one from a Scottish University, was Professor Bill Bowman, foundation professor of Pharmacology and Vice Principal at the University of Strathclyde (2001).

First published: 16 May 2011

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