Sir John Skehel FMedSci FRS
John Skehel has provided major insights into the molecular basis of how viruses recognise and infect their host cells. John focusses on the virus that causes influenza, of which there are 3–5 million cases a year worldwide, resulting in up to 500,000 deaths.
To infect a cell, the influenza virus must bind to a sialic acid-containing receptor on the cell surface, which it achieves through its own haemagglutinin glycoprotein. John was able to isolate, crystallise and subsequently determine the three-dimensional structure of this molecule. He also observed that under conditions of low pH, haemagglutinin changes shape — allowing the virus to fuse with and enter the cell.
John has been a leader in virology research for over thirty years. He headed the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza between 1975 and 1993 and was the Director of the National Institute for Medical Research from 1987–2006. His pioneering research was recognised in 1996 when he received a knighthood.
Vice-President and Biological Secretary, The Royal Society
Emeritus Scientist, The Francis Crick Institute
Interest and expertise
- Biochemistry and molecular cell biology
- Molecular microbiology, Biochemistry and molecular biology, Biophysics and structural biology, Cell biology (incl molecular cell biology), Molecular immunology
- Microbiology, immunology and developmental biology
- General microbiology (incl bacteriology and virology), Cellular and humoral immunology
Influenza, Membrane fusion, Neutralizing antibodies, Virus receptors, Membrane protein structure