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  • CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF THE SCHOOL OF BIOCHEMISTRY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL

    bristol.ac.uk/biochemistry2014

    50 years of Biochemistry

  • Bristol Biochemistry is 50 years old. Initially taught as an offshoot of the Chemistry programmes at the University of Bristol, Biochemistry emerged as a separate discipline in April 1964 when Senate approved the establishment of a new Department of Biochemistry. The first undergraduate intake arrived in October 1964. Initially under the leadership of Phillip Randle, and subsequently Brian Chappell, the Department grew rapidly. It quickly established an impressive international reputation that remains to this day.

    Over the past 50 years Bristol Biochemistry has produced an extremely talented series of graduates who have gone on to excel in their varied careers as Colworth Medal holders, Fellows of the Royal Society, respected world leaders in their fields of research, of prestigious academic institutions, businesses and corporations, and even a rock star. All of this has been achieved through culturing an innate interest in the fundamental study of the molecular processes that underlie life itself. The Bristol flavour of biochemistry has always been rigorous, quantitative, and with a strong molecular focus. These demanding, but successful, approaches continue to dominate both our research and our teaching programmes.

    In preparing to celebrate 50 successful years of Biochemistry at Bristol we have become increasingly aware of the paucity of records for much of our history. This celebratory volume attempts to partially redress this gap. In the following pages we have articles describing the history and achievements of Bristol Biochemistry. We invite you to meet some of the people that have made Biochemistry at Bristol special there are interviews and reminisces with many of our past staff and students and photos, old and new. This informal volume attempts to record and identify our successes over the first 50 years and also forms an introduction to our 50th anniversary celebrations to be held in September 2014.

    We hope you find this celebratory volume interesting, informative and enjoyable. Perhaps it will also inspire the biochemists of the future to join us for undergraduate or graduate study, or as part of our vibrant and enthusiastic research community. We look forward to another 50 years of bringing molecules to life.

    Leo BradyHead of School 2009-2014

    Foreword

    50 Years of Biochemistry at Bristol 1

    Biochemistry 50th Anniversary

    CommitteeLeo Brady Steve HalfordTom PodestaCara RichardsCaroline McKinnon

    ContactSchool of BiochemistryUniversity of BristolMedical Sciences BuildingUniversity WalkBristol BS8 1TD+44 (0)117 33 12167bristol.ac.uk/biochemistryFollow us on Twitter @BristolBiochem

    Thanks toDick DentonAndrew HalestrapGus CameronEmily CoyteBeth WardDavid YatesJon LaneAsh ToyeIan CollinsonAll our interviewees

    Designcw-design.co.uk

    PrintPrint Services, University of Bristol

    University of Bristol 2014

    2 A brief history of Biochemistry at Bristol

    6 Bristol Biochemists Interviewswithsomeofthe

    staffandstudentswho,overtheyears,havecalledBristolBiochemistryhome.HilaryCross 6

    ChrisProud 8

    DavidYates 10

    JordanRaff 12

    PeterHenderson 14

    JanDenton 16

    DickDenton 18

    TobyMurcott 22

    GuyRutter 24

    HilaryMuirhead 26

    JoeYeeles 28

    PatienceBarrow 30

    NigelEdgell 32

    SteveHalford 34

    20 Gallery: now and then Imagesfromhalf-a-century

    ofBiochemistryatBristol.

    36 Biochemistry at Bristol, past and present Someofthekeyscientific

    findingsandresearchfromthepast50years,andalsosomeofthecurrentareasofwork.

    TheBristolDNAdoublehelix 36

    Theregulationofmetabolism 38

    StructuralBiologyatBristol:abriefhistory 40

    Mitochondria,bioenergeticsandmetabolitetransport 42

    SomecurrentareasofworkinBristol Biochemistry 44

    Researchonnucleicacids 46

    48 The future of the Department

    Contents

    2

    36

    20

    48

  • TheMedicalSchoolbuildinghadbeenplannedbeforethewar,butconstructiondidnotstartuntiltheearly-1960swithStage1,theWestWing,completedby1964.Biochemistrywasincludedinthe1962researchcompendium,withprojectsofferedinBotany,Zoology,Chemistry,andPhysiology.IftheUniversityhadaresearchentryitneededaDepartment;in1963,whenthenewMedicalSchoolwasofficiallyopened,aChairinBiochemistrywasadvertised.

    InApril1964PhilipRandlewasappointedasthefirstProfessorofBiochemistryattheUniversityofBristol.ComingfromCambridge,ProfessorRandlerecruitedanumberofhiscolleagues,includingDrBrianChappellandDrPeterGarland,aswellashisresearchstudentswhoincludedDickYorke,DickDentonandGeorgeSchofield.Randle,ChappellandGarlandallrecruitedresearchstudentstojointheirlaboratories;theywerehousedonD-floornearthemainentranceofthenewWestWingoftheMedicalSchool.TheSchoolhadanexcellentglassblower,MalcolmFowler,andgoodmechanicalworkshops,overseenbyBobTaylor,whichallowedresearcherstodevelopspectrophotometric,fluorimetricandelectrodeassays.Thesenewmethodswereexploitedbyresearchersinbioenergeticsandmetabolism.

    Theearlyyearssawrapidexpansion.TheDepartmentproducednumerouspapersfromtheirnewresearchteams,whichjustifiedRandlesdrivetoincreasebothstaffandterritorywithintheUniversity.TheBiochemicalSocietyrecognisedearlyexcellence,awardingColworthMedals(forthemostpromisingbiochemistundertheageof35)toChappellin1965,andthenGarlandin1968.In1966theRandlelaboratoryrelocatedtothe

    newEastwing,asdidtheChappellgroup.SubsequentlyGarlandsgroupexpandedintotheexistingRandleterritorynearthemainentrance.Plantbiochemists,DrOwenJonesandDrTrevorGriffiths,joinedtheDepartmentandDrHerbert(Freddie)GutfreundwasrecruitedtostrengthenPhysicalBiochemistryandMolecularEnzymology.AlthoughnotcomingstraightfromCambridgehishistoryaddedtotheCantabinfluence.HeinturncatalysedtheappointmentofDrHermanWatsonandDrHilaryMuirheadtosetupX-raycrystallographicstudies.AsChemistrymovedoutoftheInnerCourt,BiochemistrymovedinandextralaboratoryspacewasalsofoundinthebasementoftheBiologyBuilding,whereDrJohnHolbrookandDrMikeTannerjoinedourstaffthere.TheInnerCourtsuiteoflaboratorieswasrenamedtheMolecularEnzymologyLaboratory,andthecoffeeroombecameadynamicdiscussionforum.BristolwasrecognisedagainbytheBiochemicalSocietyin1974whenDavidTrenthamwasawardedtheColworthMedalforhisstudiesonrapidkineticsoftheS1subfragmentofmyosin.Alittlelater,Croftsmastermindedtheinstallationofanelectronmicroscopesuite,trainingAlanBrittontoofferthisservice.WatsonandMuirheadinstalledaPDP8computertoprocessX-raycrystallographicdata,builthugemodelsandtrainedagenerationofresearchstudentsinPhysicalBiochemistry.Muirhead,ahighlyrespectedphysicalscientist,representedtheFacultyonmanyBoardsasa,thentoorare,womaninscience.

    AsPhysicalBiochemistrywasdevelopingintheMolecularEnzymologyLaboratory,athirdphaseofstructuraldevelopmentwasagreed,andbuiltin1967/68.ThenewblockwasessentiallyallBiochemistry,with

    adedicatedteachinglabonthetopfloor,andusewassplitbetweenDentists,MedicalBiochemistryandPharmacology.ThedevelopmentalsohousedthenewlyconstitutedMRC-funded,RegulationinMetabolism,unit.Bythemid-1970sBiochemistryhadgrowntobethemostresearch-activedepartmentintheMedicalSchool,andsubsequentrestructuringconcentratedonbringinggroupswithsimilarorcomplementaryresearchintocloseproximity.

    WhilstmanystaffinBiochemistryreceivedaccoladeswhichresultedinpromotionwithintheDepartment,severalstaffmemberswerepromotedtochairsoutsideBristol.In1970GarlandwasappointedtotheChairinBiochemistryatDundee.DrPatienceBarrowwasappointedtoassistwiththeincreasingadministrativeloadontheretirementofAshfordin1973,andtookresponsibilityforundergraduateandpostgraduateadmissions.In1975RandlemovedtoaChairinOxfordandChappellwasappointedtoHeadofDepartment,apositionhewouldretainuntilhisretirementin1995.AnotherpromotionsawPhelpsmovetoheadtheDepartmentatLancaster.Followingthesedepartures,NigelBrown,SteveHalfordandAndrewHalestrapwereappointedaslecturers.In1977DavidTrenthamwasappointedtoaChairinPhiladelphia,similarlyin1978DrTonyCroftsmovedtoBiophysicsattheUniversityofUrbana,Illinois.TherecentlyvacatedspaceallowedGutfreundtomovetotheMedicalSchool,andtheInnerCourttoptwofloorsallowedHalford,Brown,andthenewlyappointedDrWoodtosetupthere.HolbrookmovedtothesharedlaboratoryonC-flooroftheMedicalSchool,andbuiltatemporarywall(himself,withhelpfromworkersfromhisfarm)acrossthelaboratorysoPharmacologycouldcontinue

    A brief history of Biochemistry at Bristol

    In 1960, the University of Bristol offered research in Biological Chemistry, supported by professors and lecturers from Botany, Zoology, Physiology,

    Chemistry and Pharmacology.

    University of Bristol2

    tousetheirspace.ThesemovesconsolidatedresearchinthefieldofDNAenzymology.

    Newbloodlectureshipswereannouncedin1983,andBiochemistrydecidedtodevelopexpertiseintheemergingfieldofmoleculargenetics.DrLenHallandDrBillChiawereappointed,andA100wasconvertedtoprovidetherequiredlevelofsafetyforworkingwithgeneticallymodifiedorganisms.BythistimeHolbrookwasprogressinginthefieldofsitedirectedmutagenesis,soworkingin

    acommonlaboratoryblockwithHallwasnecessary.ThroughoutthisperiodM101continuedtobeapowerhouseofmetabolicresearch.TheMetabolicBiochemistrylaboratoryprovidedsomeimportantlinkswiththeDepartmentofMedicine,andthewashing-uproomwasadiscussioncentreformanyyears,beforesafetyinterestsrequiredaseparateroom.

    AbiginitiativebyHolbrookin1986/7broughttogetherbothbiochemistsandchemiststobidforaMolecularRecognitionCentre,fundedbytheBBSRC.Thisprovidedposts,instrumentationandmoneytomovetheX-rayfacilitiesfromtheInnerCourttotheMedicalSchool.NewequipmentwasinstalledinChemistry,andtheSouthWestFacilityforMolecularRecognitionwasestablished,formingavaluablelinkwithorganicchemistry.Theinitialgrantwasrenewedtoprovideafurth