Professor Charles Weissmann ForMemRS
Charles Weissman is a molecular geneticist who is best known for being the first to clone the genes for interferon, a protein released in response to viral infection that can now be synthesised on an industrial scale for use as a medicine. He went on to research a number of different disease-causing agents, or pathogens.
He was the first to discover and document the lifecycle of bacteriophages — viruses that infect bacteria — and subsequently investigated a number of pathogens, including those responsible for tuberculosis and malaria. He is also a world expert on diseases caused by the small infectious protein particles known as prions, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, more commonly known as ‘mad cow disease’.
Charles has won numerous awards during his research career, including the 1995 Robert Koch Gold Medal. He is a Foreign Associate Member of the US National Academy of Sciences and holds several honorary doctorates from universities around the world. He also co-founded the biotech company Biogen.
In recognition of his many contributions to molecular biology, including his innovative analysis of coliphage Q-beta by the introduction of methods for making site-specific mutations, and the cloning and expression of alpha-interferon genes in bacteria.
In recognition of his work on prion diseases which lead to the remarkable advances in understanding the molecular biology of spongiform encephalopathies.