Professor Richard Henderson

Richard Henderson is a structural biologist with a physics background, from Edinburgh University.  After a Ph.D. at MRC-LMB working on enzyme mechanisms, he developed an interest in membrane proteins as a postdoc at Yale. 

Back at MRC-LMB with Nigel Unwin, he used electron microscopy to determine the structure of bacteriorhodopsin in two-dimensional crystals, first at low resolution and later at atomic resolution.  

With Chris Tate, he helped to develop the method of “conformational thermostabilisation” that allows any membrane protein, to be made more stable while at the same time retaining a chosen conformation of interest.   This helped the crystallization and structure determination of several G protein–coupled receptors (GPCRs).  With help from MRCT, this led to the founding of the MRC start-up company Heptares in 2007.  Heptares now has ~125 employees and is developing new drugs for medically important GPCRs. 

For the last 20 years, he has been working to improve the methodology of single particle electron cryomicroscopy (cryoEM), which has recently reached the stage where it is possible to obtain atomic structures of a wide variety of macromolecular complexes routinely without crystals.  

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