Professor Mike Lawrence

Professor Mike Lawrence



Photo of Professor Mike Lawrence



BSc(Hons) PhD Cape Town 

Laboratory Head (Honorary)

My laboratory investigates how insulin and the related insulin-like growth factors signal into cells. Insulin is the primary hormone that controls sugar uptake from the blood and its subsequent metabolism. Insulin-like growth factors are involved in normal human growth. Defects in signalling by insulin and/or insulin-like growth factors are associated with type I and type 2 diabetes as well as with cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

Our aim is to use the knowledge we generate to develop new therapeutics to treat these diseases.

Research interest

Our laboratory is studying the structural biology of the interaction of insulin and the insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) with their receptors on the cell surface and the way in these interactions effect signalling. The insulin receptor and type I insulin like growth factor receptor are large, heavily-glycosylated, disulphide-linked homodimeric proteins whose structural characterisation presents considerable challenge. 

Our laboratory has published a variety of structures of these two receptors, including recently the structure of insulin bound to its primary binding site on the insulin receptor. One of our key challenges is now to determine the structure of the high-affinity insulin / insulin receptor complex, wherein insulin cross-links its primary and secondary binding sites on the receptor surface and in so doing effects signal transduction. Also, given the therapeutic interest in these systems, we are also seeking to determine high resolution images of the interaction of insulins and IGFs with their primary receptor binding sites.  



cone snail

Associate Professor Mike Lawrence and his team found venom extracted from a species of marine cone snail could hold the key to developing ‘ultra-fast-acting’ insulins, leading to more efficient diabetes treatments