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Harveian Oration 2020

When and where

20 October 2020

Past event

Harveian Oration 2020

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) invites you to this year’s digital Harveian Oration, one of the oldest and most significant events in our calendar.

The Harveian Oration was established in 1656 by William Harvey (1578–1657). Each year, the RCP continues the tradition by inviting a leading doctor or scientist to speak on issues relating to their field of work. This year the oration will be given by Professor Sir Peter Ratcliffe FRCP FRS FMedSci on Elucidation of molecular oxygen-sensing mechanisms in human cells: implications for medicine.

This year’s Oration will be hosted digitally on our on-demand platform RCP Player starting at 5.30pm, it is free to attend and open to all. Pre-registration is required. 

The Harveian Oration 2020

The Harveian Oration 2020 is being delivered by Nobel laureate Professor Sir Peter Ratcliffe. Maintenance of oxygen homeostasis is a fundamental challenge for all large organisms. Following William Harvey’s De motu cordis, it is now established that the lungs, heart and blood circulation have all evolved to meet the challenge of maintaining oxygen homeostasis across the body’s circa 40 trillion cells. Sir Peter will trace these discoveries through to atomic scale resolution of an ‘oxygen sensing’ process that underpins many of the adaptive responses to low oxygen, which are made in human physiology and disease. He will discuss the extent to which reductionist biology of this type can or cannot inform medicine discovery.

The Harveian Oration

In 1656 Dr William Harvey FRCP funded an annual lecture and dinner once a year, the lecture to include a call to the fellows and members of the RCP to ‘search and Studdy out the secrett of Nature by way of experiment’. The Oration is delivered annually on, or as near as is practicable to, St Luke’s Day – 18 October, by a distinguished doctor or scientist.

Learn more about our speaker

Peter Ratcliffe studied medicine at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. After positions at the London Postgraduate Hospitals he moved to Oxford to train as a nephrologist. Following specialist clinical training he became interested in the regulation of the haematopoietic growth factor erythropoietin, which is produced by the kidneys in response to reduced blood oxygen availability.

This work led to the unexpected discovery that the oxygen sensing process underlying the regulation of erythropoietin production operates widely across human and animal cells to direct a broad range of homeostatic responses to hypoxia. The laboratory went on to elucidate the mechanism of 'oxygen sensing' by post-translational hydroxylation of specific amino acid residues within the key transcription factor, HIF (Hypoxia Inducible Factor) and showed that this process is catalysed by a series of ‘oxygen-sensing’ 2-oxoglutarate dependent dioxygenases.

Dr Ratcliffe has received numerous awards for this work including the Canada Gairdner International Award and the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Biomedical Science. He was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society in 2002 and Knighted for services to medicine in 2014, and won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2019. He served as Nuffield Professor and Head of Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford from 2004-2016. In May 2016 he was appointed Director of Clinical Research at the Francis Crick Institute, London, retaining a position at Oxford as Director of the Target Discovery Institute and Distinguished Scholar of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.