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New portrait of Alan Williams unveiled

A pioneer in the field of leukocyte membrane proteins, Alan Williams was elected Head of Department in 1991.

The unveiling of the new photographic portrait was hosted by the current Head of Department Professor Matthew Freeman earlier this year, in the company of friends and family. The new portrait is located in the main staircase of the Dunn School Old Building.

Alan Williams made leading contributions to the development of methods for the characterisation and subsequent isolation of cell surface proteins. His analysis of Thy-1 antigen established approaches used for a variety of other molecules, and he was also a pioneer in the use of monoclonal antibodies for these purposes. His discovery that the brain Thy-1 protein is evolutionarily related to immunoglobulins suggested that this type of domain would have a role beyond that in immunology, developing the concept of the immunoglobulin superfamily. He also showed that Thy-1 was anchored by a novel lipid method and many seminal findings.

Alan Williams was appointed Director of the MRC Cellular Immunology Unit at the Dunn School in 1977, and elected Professor of Pathology and Head of Department in 1991. His untimely death at the age of 46 in 1992 deprived the Dunn School community of a trusted colleague.

Professor Emma Slack, the inaugural Barclay-Williams Professor of Molecular Immunology, said  “Alan was one of the giants of Immunology, whose work underpins everything that I do and teach in Immunology today. It a huge honour for me to hold the Barclay-Williams chair, that Alan’s family, together with Neil Barclay, have established.  When I arrive at the lab each morning, I will look up at this new picture and be instantly reminded of my commitment to continue grow and develop the Dunn School’s tradition as a world-leading centre for highly innovative, paradigm-shifting immunology research.” 

Written by Cat Vicente

Infection and Immunity

Several Dunn School groups use a range of approaches to investigate antigen presentation and immune regulation during health and disease and study the mechanisms that enable bacterial and viral pathogens to invade and proliferate inside their hosts.

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Over our 100 years of history, our research has saved millions, if not billions, of lives. The development of the first antibiotic, penicillin, ranks among the top medical discoveries of all time, but we have never rested on those laurels.

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