Lionel Crawford has made important contributions to the molecular biology of oncogenic viruses. He was the first to isolate RNA from Rous sarcoma virus and was a pioneer in early studies on polyoma virus DNA. With his colleagues, he carried out the first neoplastic transformation with isolated virus DNA. He discovered the first mouse parvovirus, MVM, and showed it to have a single-stranded DNA genome.
With David Lane, he elucidated the nature of the SV40 T-antigen binding protein p53, and showed it to be involved in many tumours. The protein was subsequently found to be central to the control of DNA replication, surveillance of DNA damage and cell death in both normal and malignant cells. With colleagues, he showed that production of SV40 large T and small t proteins are involved in RNA splicing and use alternative reading frames.
Lately, Lionel’s lab concentrated on papillomaviruses and work with Jian Zhou there, and later in Australia, laid the foundations of the in vitro production of virus coat protein and the development of cervical cancer vaccines.
In recognition of his work on the small DNA tumour viruses, specifically the papova virus group, papilloma, polyoma and SV40.