Research Achievements

The Lister Institute was an active research institute for just under 85 years, and during this time its researchers made a number of significant contributions across many areas of biomedical research, as well as pioneering many new approaches to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. An overview of these achievements in a number of key categories is included below:

Biochemistry

  • First synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
  • Definition of the structure of co-enzyme A
  • Discovery that immunological specificity of bacteria is conferred by certain oligosaccharides on their surfaces
  • The biosynthesis, genetic control and chemical nature of the human A, B, H and Lewis blood group antigens

Blood and blood products

  • Invention of ether method for fractionating plasma to obtain fibrinogen, thrombin, albumin, immunoglobulins etc. for clinical use
  • Large-scale production of dried human plasma
  • Development of the first clinically effective Factor VIII concentrate for treating haemophilia
  • Development of the first anti-D immunoglobulin for treating rhesus-negative mothers
  • Development of the radio-immunoassay used nationally to screen blood for hepatitis B
  • Blood group genetic study and the establishment of reference centres (Medical Research Council Units)

Microbiology and Immunology

  • Identifying and establishing the life cycles of Trypanosomes
  • Devising the method for identifying blood meals of insect vectors
  • Discovery of sequential mutations in surface antigens and their hindrance on the development of protective immunity
  • First description of L-forms of bacteria lacking cell walls
  • First isolations in West Africa and the UK of Chlamydias affecting the eye and genital tract
  • Discovery of the Vi antigen of Salmonella Typhi
  • Motility of flagellated strains of salmonellas used to study phage transduction and its inheritance
  • First description of the bacterial sex pilus and its exploitation for studying bacterial plasmids, including those conferring resistance to antibiotics

Vaccines and antitoxins

  • Major participation in MRC field trials of pertussis vaccines
  • Development of the freeze-dried heat-stable vaccine used in the world smallpox eradication programme

The Queen’s award for Technological Achievement

In 1984 a highly significant discovery was made by Sir Alec Jeffreys, one of the first Lister Fellows, when he discovered that no two people, (other than identical twins) had the same DNA fingerprint.

The development and significance of this finding made medical history and Sir Alec is recognised as the inventor of genetic fingerprinting, and the father of DNA Profiling.

Sir Alec’s DNA testing method was patented and developed with ICI, both at their Cellmark laboratories at Abingdon and an ICI unit in Maryland, USA. A share of the significant royalties flowed to the Lister Institute, and in 1990 we were honoured to receive, jointly with ICI, the Queens award for Technological Achievement.

Our research today

When our own research facilities closed we did not cease to make major contributions to biomedical research. Instead that work continues in our support of leading experts through competitive research prizes.

You can also find out more about our research work in our 125th anniversary publication and in The Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine: a concise history, by Leslie Collier.

Find out More

To find out more about us, please feel free to contact the Lister Institute today.