John Briggs

2018 United Kingdom Award Finalist — Faculty

John Briggs

Current Position:
Programme Leader

MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

Structural & Cellular Biology

Recognized for: Advances in high-resolution visualization of viral particles including HIV, using cryo-electron tomography combined with fluorescence imaging.

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Structural Biology, Biological Microscopy, Cryo-Electron Tomography, HIV-1, Membrane trafficking


BA and MSci, University of Cambridge
DPhil, University of Oxford (Advisor: Prof. Stephen Fuller)
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Ludwig Maximilians University, Germany (Advisor: Prof. Christoph Bräuchle)
Group Leader and Senior Scientist, European Molecular Biology Laboratory

Dr. Briggs uses and develops state-of-the-art techniques in electron microscopy to understand viral and vesicle coat assembly and function. In particular, the Briggs group has been one of the pioneers of a technique called cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET), which allows visualization of biological specimens at near-atomic resolution. He has also combined this and related electron microscopy techniques with fluorescence microscopy – this powerful combination allows for the identification of rare and dynamic cellular events, and then the imaging of these events at high resolution. Dr. Briggs was the first to achieve pseudo-atomic resolution for visualization of a biological structure using cryo-ET, – the capsid domains of HIV. This remarkable achievement revealed the network of protein interactions that governs the assembly of HIV particles, and provides new insights into viral function. Dr. Briggs is at the forefront of structural biology, leading the search for higher resolution visualizations of cellular processes directly within their native environments. By turning these techniques to important biological questions like the structure of HIV, his work stands to have broad impact on our understanding of the biology of cells and viruses.

“We can learn a lot by getting detailed 3D views of protein complexes in their native environments, inside cells or viruses. The rapid development of cryo-electron microscopy is now making this possible – that is very exciting for us!”

Key Publications:

  1. W.Kukulski, M.Schorb, M.Kaksonen, J.A.G.Briggs. Plasma Membrane Reshaping During Endocytosis is Revealed by Time-Resolved Electron Tomography. Cell, 2012.
  2. S.O.Dodonova, P.Diestelkoetter-Bachert, A.von Appen, W.J.H.Hagen, R.Beck, M.Beck, F.Wieland, J.A.G.Briggs. A Structure of the COPI Coat and the Role of Coat Proteins in Membrane Vesicle Assembly. Science, 2015.
  3. S.Mattei, B.Glass, W.J.H.Hagen, H.-G.Krausslich, J.A.G.Briggs. The Structure and Flexibility of Conical HIV-1 Capsids Determined Within Intact Virions. Science, 2016.
  4. F.K.M.Schur, M.Obr, W.J.H.Hagen, W.Wan, A.J.Jakobi, J.M.Kirkpatrick, C.Sachse, H.-G.Krausslich, J.A.G.Briggs. An Atomic Model of HIV-1 Capsid-SP1 Reveals Structures Regulating Assembly and Maturation. Science, 2016.

Other Honors:

2015 Royal Microscopical Society Medal for Life Sciences
2015 Elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization
2015 Ernst-Ruska Prize for outstanding achievements in electron microscopy
2012 Chica and Heinz Schaller Research Award
2005 Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Fellowship
2005 Long-term Fellowship, European Molecular Biology Organization