Biological Sciences

Professor Eleanor Riley recognised in King’s Birthday Honours

Professor Eleanor Riley has been awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to immunology in the King’s Birthday Honours 2023.

Eleanor Riley

The honours system recognises people who have made extraordinary contributions and service to people across the UK.

Professor Eleanor Riley FRSE FMedSci, is Professor Emerita of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the School of Biological Sciences.

Eleanor is a world leader in malaria immunology. Her multidisciplinary approach has transformed understanding of malaria immunity, challenging long-held beliefs.

She provides a unique perspective on the research needed to improve public health in tropical countries.

Her research focuses on mechanisms of immunity to malaria and how the body’s immune response can contribute to disease.

She also explores how immunity affects the distribution and transmission of the parasite and how malaria infection affects resistance to other infections. 

Understanding Malaria

Malaria, caused by the parasite – Plasmodium falciparum – is a huge threat to adults and children in the developing world. 

Each year, around half a million people die from the disease and another 250 million are infected. Malaria parasites are spread to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes.

The outcomes that follow a malaria infection can vary from no symptoms to life-threatening disease and death. 

The precise reasons why people respond in different ways to the same parasite infection are still unknown, experts say.

Other Interests and Roles

Eleanor also has a long-standing interest in the biology of natural killer cells and their role in resistance to infection. Natural killer cells are part of the body's immune system that help fight infection and cancer.

She has previously served as Committee and Strategy Panel chair at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and as deputy chair of Medical Research Council (MRC) Infections and Immunity Board.

Eleanor is a member of Council of the MRC and of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Science Media Centre and served on the  UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) COVID-19 task force.


A veterinarian by training, Eleanor obtained her first degree in cellular pathology and her PhD in immunology and parasitology. 

She has spent more than 30 years as an infectious disease immunologist, working primarily on malaria. 

She initially worked at the Medical Research Council Laboratories in The Gambia, then as a Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. 

She was subsequently Professor of Infectious Disease Immunology and Head of the Department of Immunology and Infection at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

Eleanor moved back to the University of Edinburgh in 2017 as Director of the Roslin Institute. In 2020, she took up her current post in the Institute of Immunology and Infection  where she is now Professor Emerita of Immunology and Infectious Diseases.


I am flabbergasted and chuffed in equal measure; I never expected to be recognised in this way but it is lovely nonetheless. I have been blessed with having wonderful colleagues at pretty much every stage of my career and I am grateful to each and every one of them for the support they have given me.

Professor Eleanor Riley FRSE FMedSciProfessor Emerita of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, School of Biological Sciences.

Related Links

Professor Eleanor Riley

University of Edinburgh – King’s Birthday Honours