Educated at Oxford University, Charles Pasternak subsequently spent fifteen years on the staff of the Oxford Biochemistry Department, during which time he also held a teaching Fellowship at Worcester College, Oxford. He spent two years as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Pharmacology Department of Yale University Medical School, and subsequently held an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellowship of the International Union Against Cancer in the Department of Neurosciences at the University of California San Diego Medical School in La Jolla. In 1976 he was invited to move to St. George’s Hospital Medical School (University of London) in order to set up a new Department of Biochemistry, which he subsequently expanded into a larger Department of Cellular and Molecular Sciences as founder-Chairman. He is currently Director of the Oxford International Biomedical Centre which he founded in 1992.
National Service: Charles Pasternak was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1953 and subsequently served 10 years in the Territorial Army (Oxford + Bucks Light Infantry, subsequently Royal Green Jackets), retiring with the rank of Major.
Charles Pasternak is well known for his pioneering work on the surface membrane of animal cells, which is a key factor in the understanding of cancer and many infectious diseases. In 1973 he proposed a mechanism to account for the surface changes that accompany growth and division of cultured cells and in 1984 showed that divalent cations such as Zn2+ protect membranes and cells against attack by certain viruses, toxins, immune molecules, and other agents. Together with C. L. Bashford he showed (in 1984) that the membrane potential of certain leucocytes and cancer cells is maintained independently of K+ diffusion, and they (in 1997) proposed a novel mechanism for the fluctuation of ion current in membrane pores.
Charles Pasternak is active in promoting scientific collaboration and interchange; he is a member of the Executive Committee for a UNESCO initiative on Molecular and Cellular Biology, a member of the Education Committee of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB), a member of the International Advisory Board for the Chulabhorn Research Institute, Bangkok and the Scientific Board of Antenna Technologie, Geneva. In 1979 he founded the Cell Surface Research Fund in order to foster international research links and scientific meetings on various aspects of fundamental and clinical research on the cell surface. In 1993 he received the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa and Palade medal from the University of Bucharest, in 1995 the honour of Amigo de Venezuela from the Fundacion Venezuela Positiva and in 2002 was elected Foreign Member of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Charles Pasternak has served on several editorial committees including the Advisory Board of Current Topics in Membranes and Transport, and is the founder-Editor of Bioscience Reports: Molecular and Cellular Biology of the Cell Surface. His published works include Biochemistry of Differentiation (Wiley 1970; translated into Japanese), Introduction to Human Biochemistry (Oxford University Press 1979; translated into half a dozen languages), The Molecules Within Us: Our Body in Health and Disease (Plenum 1998) and Quest: The Essence of Humanity (John Wiley, 2003), as well as some 250 original papers and reviews on the cell surface.
Charles Pasternak supports many charitable causes. He founded the Douglas Hems Memorial Fund, of which he was a Trustee for 15 years, in 1979. He is a Patron of the Anglo-Russian Children Appeal.