In Memoriam: Chris Scanlan, 1977-2013

It is with very heavy hearts that we relay this sad news - our dear colleague and friend, Dr. Chris Scanlan, lost his battle with cancer while surrounded by family over the weekend of May 4, 2013.  Chris was very much in the prime of life when he was diagnosed and passed away at the age of only 35.  Our condolences go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.  We are immensely grateful for his contributions to the Neutralizing Antibody Consortium (NAC) and the Center for HIV/AIDS Immunology and Immunogen Discovery (CHAVI-ID) and intend to honor his memory by continuing to pursue our scientific calling of an HIV vaccine with the highest urgency.

Between 1990 and 1995, Chris attended Eton College, a famous school in England that has educated many leaders.  In 2000, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from the University of Bristol.  He continued his passion for biochemistry and in 2004 earned a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Oxford working with Raymond Dwek.  A substantial portion of his research project was conducted in the laboratory of Dennis Burton at The Scripps Research Institute.  The great success of his project cemented relations between the University of Oxford and The Scripps Research Institute and helped lead to a program to award joint degrees between the two institutes, the Skaggs-Oxford program.  This was the first time that the University of Oxford had awarded joint degrees with another institute of learning in its 800-year history. Chris was then immediately brought onto the staff at the University of Oxford as a Senior Research Associate in the Glycobiology Department. 

In 2009, Chris was promoted to the position of Group Leader and University Research Lecturer and would hold these positions until his passing.  Chris also held the formal positions of Stipendiary Lecturer in Biochemistry at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and Lecturer in Biochemistry at Oriel College, Oxford.  Through these latter positions, he continued to share his knowledge, enthusiasm, and energy thereby positively influencing the careers of many future young scientists to come.  Chris also served the public good as a 4-year City Councillor, an elected representative to the Oxford City Council.

The recent focus of Chris’ work was on HIV glycosylation with the NAC and the CHAVI-ID, but he also collaborated with a number of groups worldwide on structural characterization of glycoproteins, carbohydrate-reactive enzymes, and glycan binding proteins.  He was a sought-after expert in the complex field of glycobiology, an area of study poorly understood by most but immensely important to all facets of immunity, virology, and protein-protein interactions.  Chris was supported in his work by, among others, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, the National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  During his short but highly distinguished research career, Chris published more than 30 papers and submitted several patent applications. 

What cancer has taken here was a brilliant and motivated young scientist.  His influential contributions to the extremely challenging field of HIV vaccine development were mounting and were being translated into new possibilities and hopes for an HIV vaccine.  We have indeed lost a dear colleague and friend whose smile was always genuine and whose warmth and caring were offered freely.  Chris deeply touched those he encountered and will be missed for his insight, intellect, compassion, and wit.