Jim Smith is a visiting group leader at the Francis Crick Institute, and he also serves as Director of Science at the Wellcome Trust. His first degree was obtained from the University of Cambridge, and he did his PhD with Lewis Wolpert at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School. After two years at Harvard Medical School studying growth factors and the cell cycle, he returned to the UK to work with Jonathan Slack at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund on early amphibian development.
Jim established his own research group at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) as a tenure-track researcher in 1984 and was awarded tenure in 1988. He received the Zoological Society's Scientific Medal in 1989 and the Otto Mangold Prize of the German Society for Developmental Biology in 1991. Jim was elected to membership of EMBO in 1992, and was awarded the EMBO Medal in 1993, in which year he was also elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. He was made a Founder Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1998 and received the Feldberg Foundation Award and became a member of the Academia Europaea in 2000.
In 2000 Jim Smith became Director of the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Institute for Cancer and Developmental Biology, which was soon renamed the Gurdon Institute by him and his colleagues. He returned to NIMR as Director in 2009 and was awarded the Waddington Medal of the British Society for Developmental Biology in 2013 and was knighted for services to medical research and science education in 2017.
During his time at NIMR he served variously as Director of Research of the Francis Crick Institute, Deputy CEO and Chief of Strategy at the Medical Research Council, and a Trustee of the Crick. He is now Director of Science at the Wellcome Trust as well as a visiting group leader at the Crick.