Science for Life conference 2019

Helen Saibil

Credit: Wellcome Library London Wellcome Images

Professor Helen Saibil is Bernal Professor of Structural Biology at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research focuses on molecular chaperones and protein misfolding.

Saibil completed undergraduate studies at McGill University  and then moved to London for her PhD at Kings College. After stints at CEA Grenoble and the University of Oxford, she moved to Birkbeck where her lab studies the operation of macromolecular machinery—including molecular chaperones, protein folding/misfolding, and host cell interactions with pathogens.  Her work has resulted in the remarkable visualisation of both molecular chaperones — proteins that help other macromolecules fold and unfold — and the misfolding of proteins that form fibrils implicated in amyloid disease.

Her recent studies include work on the breakage of host membranes by malaria parasites, and on perforin,  a protein ‘weapon’ used by the immune system to punch holes in cancerous or infected cells, through which destructive enzymes can subsequently travel. These findings stem from Helen’s previous research on a similar pore-forming bacterial toxin.

In addition to being a Fellow of the  Royal Society, Helen is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an Honorary Member of the British Biophysical Society and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society. She has also received a number of awards for her work, including a five-year programme grant from the Wellcome Trust in 2009.


Helen Saibil, FRS FMedSci,
Bernal Professor of Structural Biology
Department of Biological Sciences
Birkbeck College
London WC1E 7HX, UK