Through both his research and work in industry, Alan Smith has made many significant discoveries in diverse areas such as protein synthesis, genetics and the nature of cystic fibrosis.
In his early work, Alan furthered the scientific understanding of the genetic code by identifying that the first codon of messenger RNA to be transcribed during protein synthesis is typically AUG, encoding the amino acid methionine. He revealed the genome structure of simian virus 40, a DNA virus found in both humans and monkeys that can cause tumours. His subsequent work at the biotechnology company Genzyme, where he was Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Vice-President of Research, has aided in the development of drugs to treat a variety of medical disorders. In addition to being a Fellow of the Royal Society, Alan was elected as a Member of EMBO in 1980 and in 2005, he was awarded a CBE. He also serves on a number of scientific advisory boards, including those at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.