Peter Parham has explored how the continual arms race between vertebrates and viruses gives rise to extraordinary diversity in the molecules that maintain our immune responses. As well as shedding light on human evolution, his work has highlighted the need for closer genetic matching in organ transplantation.
Peter’s work has focused on variability in the structures of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules, and their interactions with the receptors on natural killer cells that recognise them. Both MHC class I molecules and receptors evolve rapidly as they encounter new pathogens, ensuring that populations are not wiped out by epidemics.
Pondering the role of immunity in human evolution, Peter has suggested that non-African populations owe some of their immunological diversity to inbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans. His book The Immune System went into its 4th edition in 2014, and is required reading for immunology students all over the world.
Interest and expertise
Microbiology, immunology and developmental biology