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.
Biochemistry and molecular biology, Biophysics and structural biology, Molecular microbiology, 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
Leeuwenhoek Medal and Lecture
On 'How enveloped viruses enter cells'.
Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine
No citation available for this award.
For his pioneering research into virology. His studies and discoveries in the mechanisms by which influenza virus binds to the host cell, and in virus-cell membrane fusion have had a fundamental impact on the field.