The award of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine to a London scientist for his work on the brain’s ‘internal GPS system’ has been welcomed by leading London figures today

Professor John O’Keefe, Director of the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre in Neural Circuits and Behaviour at University College London, wins the award for his work on the hippocampus and its role in spatial memory and navigation. He shares the award with husband and wife team May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser.

A joint US and UK citizen, Professor O’Keefe was born in New York in 1939 but has spent the majority of his life in London. He joined University College London in 1967 as a postdoctoral fellow and has built his career there, becoming a professor in 1987.

Welcoming the award, Deputy Mayor of London for Business and Enterprise Kit Malthouse says:

“I am thrilled to see that London’s place at the heart of scientific discovery recognised with the award of the Nobel to John O’Keefe, who has made his career in one of our globally leading universities. John’s work is fundamental to understanding how humans understand their place in the world and how we navigate it, and it also has huge implications for understanding diseases such as Alzheimer’s, which is one of the huge health challenges of our time. I’m enormously pleased that he has received this ultimate accolade, and my heartiest congratulations go to him and his colleagues.”

Dr Eliot Forster, Executive Chair of MedCity, launched in April this year by the Mayor of London to promote innovation and investment in life sciences, adds:

“This is tremendous news and extremely well-deserved for John O’Keefe, who is pushing forward research that goes deep into how we as humans understand our place in the world. His award puts a spotlight on the paradigm-shifting research that the UK is carrying out – we should be very proud of that, and especially proud of our globally renowned universities, where so much of this work is taking place.

“It’s people like John who are fundamental to tackling the major health challenges of our time, and we need to make sure that universities, industry and the healthcare sector are working hand in hand to make the journey from basic science to new therapies as smooth and speedy as possible.”

Professor Michael Arthur, UCL President & Provost, said:

“John O’Keefe is one of UCL’s outstanding neuroscientists and I am delighted that his work on the very basic question of how the hippocampus in the brain stores spatial information and thus allows us to navigate our way through a complex world, has been recognised by the award of the Nobel Prize in Medicine. John continues his ground-breaking work as the first Director of the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour and I am delighted that this new institute at UCL will be guided and led by such a distinguished scientist.”

This is the 29th Nobel Prize awarded to a scientist affiliated with University College London, adding to 12 at King’s College London, 14 at Imperial College London,  90 at Cambridge and 58 at Oxford to make the golden triangle a leading centre for Nobel Laureates.