Alan Rickinson is distinguished for his important work on the Epstein–Barr virus (EBV), the cause of glandular fever and several forms of cancer in humans. Alan identified the biology and immunology of EBV infection, and his studies have led to the development of therapeutic vaccines to boost T-cell immunity against viral antigens expressed in EBV-positive tumours.
He discovered that, in vivo, EBV could adopt different forms of latency — how long the virus stays dormant without producing new virus particles — to those displayed by the in vitro transformation system. This led to the discovery of distinct patterns of viral antigen expression in the different types of EBV-associated tumours. Alan’s findings, together with his work on the viral genes that enhance cell survival, have shed light on the phenomenon of virus persistence.
Alan serves on the editorial board of several influential journals and sits on the scientific advisory boards of many research centres both in and beyond the United Kingdom. He is an elected Fellow of a number of prestigious scientific societies.