Sir John Skehel, Vice-President and Biological Secretary of the Royal Society, delivered a lecture at the new CUBRIC Building in Cardiff on Friday 11th November.
Sir John Skehel has provided major insights into the molecular basis of how viruses recognise and infect their host cells. He 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. Sir John has been a leader in virology research for over thirty years. He headed the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza between 1975 and 1993 and was the Director of the National Institute for Medical Research from 1987–2006. His pioneering research was recognised in 1996 when he received a knighthood. He is now an Emeritus Scientist at the Francis Crick Institute in London, in addition to serving as Vice-President and Biological Secretary of the Royal Society.
Influenza is notorious for causing frequent and unpredictable epidemics. The viruses responsible are highly variable and, because of this, there have been numerous attempts to prepare cross-reactive vaccines and anti-viral agents. Among these, recent attention has been given to cross-reactive, human monoclonal antibodies against the receptor-binding and membrane fusion glycoprotein, Haemagglutinin. As examples of these developments, the properties of two such antibodies were described, which Sir John’s team has studied in collaboration with colleagues from the Institute for Research in Bio-medicine in Bellinzona (Switzerland) and Medimmune LLC in Gaithersburg (USA).