Martin Buck is a microbiologist whose studies of the genetic responses of bacteria to changes in their environment have opened avenues to the development of new antibacterial agents. Martin was one of the first to identify sites on bacterial DNA where regulatory proteins might act, and his detailed exploration of the mechanics of gene activation has revealed a new system of regulation within the bacterial cell.
Martin discovered that a unique factor that forms part of the RNA polymerase enzyme controls the unwinding of the twin strands of DNA, beginning the process of its transcription into RNA — and hence to protein. This sigma factor activates genes needed across a wide range of species and functions, from nitrogen fixation to transmission of disease.
Taking a multidisciplinary approach that includes biophysics, biochemistry and structural biology, Martin has applied this new understanding to studies of bacteria important in medicine, agriculture and industry.
Professor of Molecular Microbiology, Department of Life Sciences (South Kensington), Imperial College London
Interest and expertise
Organismal biology, evolution and ecology
Plant sciences / botany
Biochemistry and molecular cell biology
Biochemistry and molecular biology, Molecular microbiology