Imperial College London

Imperial scientist elected Royal Society Fellow


Professor Charles Bangham

Professor Charles Bangham

An Imperial virologist and immunologist who has spent a career shedding light on a cancer-causing virus has been elected to the Royal Society.

Professor Charles Bangham, Chair of Immunology in the Department of Medicine, joins more than 50 distinguished scientists elected as a Fellows of the Royal Society in 2019.

During a career spanning more than 30 years, Professor Bangham’s research has focused on the human leukaemia virus (HTLV-1) and the role of white blood cells called T lymphocytes in viral infections.

His contributions include the discovery of the virological synapse, the mechanism by which viruses including HTLV-1, HIV and murine leukaemia virus are transmitted from cell to cell, starting a new field in virology.

Commenting on the accolade, Professor Bangham said: “It is a great honour to have our work recognized in this way. Imperial has been the perfect place to attract to my research group the excellent scientists who share this recognition.”

Viral research

Most recently, his work revealed how HTLV-1 – a viral cousin of HIV which can cause a rare form of cancer in some patients – can increase the risk of disease by changing the way DNA loops inside our cells.

The virus is thought to infect more than 10 million people around the world. The virus can be transmitted through unprotected sex, blood transfusions and from mother to baby via breast milk.

People can carry HTLV-1 for decades without symptoms, and 90 per cent of people may be unaware they are carrying it at all. However, an estimated 5-10 per cent of those infected may go on to develop an aggressive form of leukaemia or a progressive paralytic disease.

Professor Bangham is joined by two researchers from the Francis Crick Institute, of which Imperial is a founding partner.

It is a great honour to have our work recognized in this way Professor Charles Bangham Imperial College London

Crick group leaders Professor Caetano Reis e Sousa, who is also affiliated to the Department of Medicine at Imperial, and Dr James Briscoe have also this year been elected as Fellows of the Royal Society in recognition of their outstanding contributions to science.

Professor Reis e Sousa has been elected for his 'contributions to understanding the mechanisms by which the immune system detects pathogen invasion, cancer and tissue damage.' Professor Briscoe was elected for 'significant contributions to understanding how tissues are formed and patterned in embryos.'

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said: "Over the course of the Royal Society’s vast history, it is our Fellowship that has remained a constant thread and the substance from which our purpose has been realised: to use science for the benefit of humanity.

"This year’s newly elected Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society embody this, being drawn from diverse fields of enquiry - epidemiology, geometry, climatology - at once disparate, but also aligned in their pursuit and contributions of knowledge about the world in which we live, and it is with great honour that I welcome them as Fellows of the Royal Society."


Ryan O'Hare

Ryan O'Hare
Communications Division

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Strategy-share-the-wonder, Immune-system, Global-challenges-Health-and-wellbeing, Viruses
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