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Keith Vickerman

Professor Keith Vickerman FMedSci FRS


Elected: 1984


Keith Vickerman’s work focused on the lifecycles of the parasitic protozoa, particularly of the pathogenic trypanosomes of humans and domestic animals. He began these investigations during his five-year tenure of the Royal Society’s Tropical Research Fellowship in 1963. He traced the activation and repression of the (single) mitochondrion through the insect and vertebrate hosts respectively, both in regard to the enzyme systems and the DNA of the kinetoplast. His studies of ultrastructure were then extended to the surface coat of trypanosomes in which he showed the effect of changes in surface antigens in inducing a novel type of biological variation, proving that antigenic heterogeneity persisted in the insect host. These studies in host–parasite relationships have now been applied to other organisms (free-living flagellates, soil amoebae, malaria parasites and Leishmania) and have opened up a new approach to vaccination against protozoal diseases.

Professor Keith Vickerman FMedSci FRS died on 28 June 2016.