A brief history of Biochemistry at Bristol

The beginning of the school

The School of Biochemistry was founded in 1964 by Professor Sir Philip Randle FRS who rapidly recruited many very able colleagues so that quickly the School of Biochemistry became one of the strongest in the UK.

Research highlights in the very early years of the school included ground-breaking studies on mitochondrial transporters (Professor Brian Chappell), molecular enzymology (Professor Freddie Gutfreund, FRS), protein structure (Herman Watson, Hilary Muirhead) as well as the control of mammalian metabolism (Professor Philip Randle).

50 years of innovative research

Over the subsequent 50 years, the School of Biochemistry has continued to grow and now contains nearly 200 researchers, with an annual turnover of approximately £9 million in research funding. The original research themes have evolved to cover many aspects of modern Biochemistry and increasingly involve collaborations with colleagues in other schools that make up the biomedical sciences at Bristol.

Early strengths in mammalian metabolism underpinned later developments into research into diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. More recently, these strengths have been greatly advantaged through the development of a world-leading centre for bio-imaging, founded around cutting-edge cell imaging techniques coupled to more traditional biochemical approaches.

Studies in molecular enzymology and protein structure have expanded to cover the fundamental problems of protein folding and DNA-protein interactions, as well as computer-aided protein modelling and drug design.

The School of Biochemistry has developed a significant reputation in membrane traffic and cytoskeletal research, membrane biology and enzymology.

With a strong international reputation and a broad research portfolio, the School of Biochemistry continues to fulfil the purpose for which it was created: to be at the forefront of current biochemical research.

Heads of school

  • Professor Sir Philip Randle FRS (1964 - 1975)
  • Professor Brian Chappell (1975 - 1995)
  • Professor Dick Denton FRS (1995 - 2000)
  • Professor Len Hall (2000 - 2004)
  • Professor George Banting (2004 - 2009)
  • Professor Leo Brady (2009 - 2014)
  • Professor Kate Nobes (2014 - present)
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