Alick Isaacs

Scottish virologist who, with Swiss colleague Jean Lindenmann, in 1957 discovered interferon, a naturally occurring antiviral substance produced by cells infected with viruses. The full implications of this discovery are still being investigated.
Isaacs was born in 1921 and educated in Glasgow.
From 1951 he worked at the World Influenza Centre, London, becoming its director in 1961.
Isaacs began in 1947 studying different strains of the influenza virus and the body's response to them. Working with Lindenmann, he eventually found that when a virus invades a cell, the cell produces interferon, which then induces uninfected cells to make a protein that prevents the virus from multiplying. Almost any cell in the body can make interferon, which seems to act as the first line of defense against viral pathogens, because it is produced very quickly (interferon production starts within hours of infection whereas antibody production takes several days) and is thought to trigger other defense mechanisms.