Peter Lachmann

November 5, 1999

Peter Lachmann's recent clash with Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, over the latter's decision to publish Arpad Pusztai's GM potato research, made front-page headlines.

The 67-year-old biological secretary of the Royal Society, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, in whose establishment he was a prime mover, and professor of immunology at Cambridge University, has never been one to shy away from controversial issues. He has been vocal in his support of biotechnology throughout the furore over genetically modified food. He led a Royal Society working group that produced a report extolling the potential benefits of the technology in September 1998, and joined 18 other Royal Society fellows in attacking Dr Pusztai's work in an open letter.

Professor Lachmann's irritation at the publication of this controversial research centred on the paper's supposed scientific shortcomings, which he felt disqualified it from appearing in a peer-reviewed journal. Dr Horton disagreed and the row ensued.

Educated at Christ's College, Finchley, Professor Lachmann studied at Cambridge University and University College Hospital in London. He was head of the Medical Research Council's group on mechanisms in tumour immunology until 1977, when he was elected Sheila Joan Smith professor of immunology at Cambridge.

A past president of the Royal College of Pathologists and former member of the government's gene therapy advisory committee, Professor Lachmann has been on Unesco's international bioethics committee since 1993.

He is a member of the scientific advisory board of pharmaceutical giant SmithKline Beecham and has held a consultancy with Geron Biomed, the American firm that is developing the animal cloning technology that produced Dolly the sheep.

Married with two sons and a daughter, he enjoys mountain walking and bee-keeping.

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