1 May 2014

Institute researcher elected Fellow of the Royal Society

Julian Parkhill recognised for work on infectious disease

Professor Julian Parkhill, elected Fellow of the Royal Society 1 May 2014.

Professor Julian Parkhill, elected Fellow of the Royal Society 1 May 2014. [Genome Research Limited]

Professor Julian Parkhill, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, has been elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society, the UK's most prestigious scientific organisation. Professor Parkhill is a leading researcher in microbiology, using genomics to develop better understanding of bacterial evolution and improving healthcare as a direct result.

The Royal Society is the UK's leading scientific organisation and today announces the election of 50 new Fellows and 10 Foreign Members for 2014. The Fellowship of the Royal Society is composed of over 1450 Fellows and Foreign members, including 80 Nobel Laureates.

Thomson Reuters, which measures publication records of researchers, has placed Professor Parkhill in its most highly cited list of microbiologists on several occasions.

"I am delighted to be elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society," says Professor Parkhill, a Senior Investigator at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. "The Royal Society stands for all that is good about scientific research, but above all the need for evidence and objectivity. Its former members include Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch, pioneers of microbiological research, who changed our understanding of infectious disease from a supposition about vapours and miasmas to a scientific study of organisms. It is humbling to be a small part of this legacy.

"It's a huge honour and all who are familiar with my work will know it is completely dependent on collaboration with others: the esteem of this award is shared by all with whom I have worked in my career."

" The Royal Society stands for all that is good about scientific research: it is humbling to be a small part of this legacy. "

Professor Julian Parkhill

Professor Parkhill studies the genomes of microorganisms, particularly bacterial species that cause human disease. His work has included analysis of the global spread of cholera, studies that contributed to the ending of an MRSA outbreak in a neonatal hospital ward, research to understand the spread of antibiotic resistance in tuberculosis, the evasion of vaccines by whooping cough and other diseases. The bacterial species into which he has led research programmes cause meningitis, septicaemia, plague, cholera, whooping cough, tuberculosis, dystentery, diphtheria, leprosy, food poisoning, STDs, and many other diseases. Each is a significant health burden today.

"Julian's 17-year career at the Sanger Institute epitomises many of the things we seek to achieve," says Professor Mike Stratton, Director of the Wellcome trust Sanger Institute. "He has taken our Institute pathogen sequencing from the first steps of single genomes - our work on the genome of the organism that causes tuberculosis - to our studies today in which we can use the tools we have developed to determine when and where outbreaks occur, how antibiotic resistance emerges, how vaccines begin to lose effectiveness.

"In his work, he has transformed pathogen genomics at the Institute and globally from a study of bacterial species to a force to improve healthcare. This election the Fellowship of the Royal Society is fully deserved."

Professor Parkhill gained his PhD in 1991 from the University of Bristol through work on bacterial genetics. He was then a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Birmingham, working first on bacterial transcriptional regulation and then on the transforming proteins of adenoviruses.

Since joining the Sanger Institute in 1997, he has been involved in the genomic analysis of a large number of bacterial species.

In his current research, he uses very high-throughput sequencing and phenotyping technologies to understand the evolution of bacterial pathogens on short and long timescales; how they transmit between hosts on a local and global scale, how they adapt to different hosts and how they respond to natural and human-induced selective pressures.

Professor Parkhill has published more than 300 scientific research papers: his work has been cited by other researchers more than 26,000 times.

Notes to Editors

Professor Parkhill

Professor Parkhill was educated at Westcliff High School for Boys in Essex, and then did a BSc degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Birmingham. He was awarded his PhD in 1991 from the University of Bristol for work on bacterial genetics.

He subsequently pursued postdoctoral research at the University of Birmingham, working first on bacterial transcriptional regulation and then on the transforming proteins of adenoviruses.

He joined the Sanger Institute in 1997, where he has been involved in the genomic analysis of a large number of bacteria from a wide diversity of genera, including Bordetella, Burkholderia, Campylobacter, Chlamydia, Clostridium, Corynebacterium, Escherichia, Haemophilus, Mycobacterium, Neisseria, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Yersinia and many others.

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The Royal Society

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world's most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society's fundamental purpose, reflected in its founding Charters of the 1660s, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

The Society's strategic priorities are:

  • Promoting science and its benefits
  • Recognising excellence in science
  • Supporting outstanding science
  • Providing scientific advice for policy
  • Fostering international and global cooperation
  • Education and public engagement

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The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the world's leading genome centres. Through its ability to conduct research at scale, it is able to engage in bold and long-term exploratory projects that are designed to influence and empower medical science globally. Institute research findings, generated through its own research programmes and through its leading role in international consortia, are being used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for human disease.

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The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. We support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. Our breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. We are independent of both political and commercial interests.

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