Ian Wilson is a biochemist who uses high-resolution X-ray crystallography to study how the immune system interacts with, and neutralises, foreign antigens that lock onto antibodies to produce recognisable molecules. Ian pioneers innovative new methods for high-throughput structural protein studies at the Joint Center for Structural Genomics, a US-based research consortium.
If our immune system cannot recognise foreign antigens specifically and selectively, it begins to attack the body, leading to autoimmune diseases such as lupus, diabetes or multiple sclerosis. Using crystallography techniques, Ian has uncovered subtle changes in the structure of antibody binding sites, which influence this important immune recognition process.
Ian’s work focuses on the ability of the immune system to identify harmful pathogens, such as the influenza virus and HIV. This includes research on proteins known as pattern recognition receptors that, when released from damaged cells, signal the presence of viral or bacterial infection and activate the immune system. In addition, Ian’s research is helping to improve vaccine design.