Peter Parham

Professor in the Departments of Structural Biology and Microbiology & Immunology

Stanford University, USA

Peter Parham grew up in London and gained a degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge in 1972. A Kennedy Fellowship then enabled him to pursue graduate studies at Harvard University, where he worked on the purification and structural analysis of HLA class I in Jack Strominger’s laboratory, gaining a PhD in 1977. As a Harvard Junior Fellow, Parham spent one postdoctoral year in Walter Bodmer’s laboratory at the University of Oxford, where he began to explore the then new technology of monoclonal antibodies as a tool for studying the structural basis of HLA class I polymorphism. Returning to Harvard for two postdoctoral years, Parham joined the Stanford faculty in 1980, as a member of the department of Structural Biology, where he has been Assistant, Associate and Full Professor. The continuing thread of Parham’s research has been to define at high resolution the structural basis and functional impact of HLA class I polymorphism in human populations. Initially focused on T cell immunity, the scope of Parham’s research broadened to include NK cell immunity. This led to discovery of gene content diversity and allelic polymorphism of the killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors of NK cells that recognize HLA-A, -B and –C polymorphisms. Ongoing research examines the co-evolution of KIR and HLA class I diversity in a variety of human populations. Parallel study of captive and wild great apes provides a context for defining unique features of the human system. For his contributions to the field of immunogenetics, Peter Parham has received the Ceppellini, Festenstein, Gorer, Payne, Simons and Snell awards. In 2008, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society.