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Prof Anthony Campbell  -  MA PhD

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Professor Anthony Campbell is one of life’s genuine enthusiasts. He is polymath, having extraordinary abilities as an original scientific thinker, inspiring communicator, musician, networker, and cook. He is a true natural scientist, believing that science begins with curiosity, leading to discoveries and inventions that explain how the living world works, and evolved. As a result of his work on the bioluminescent jelly fish Obelia, he had the idea of replacing radioactivity in immunoassay and DNA technology by a chemical reaction that makes light - chemiluminescence. This invention has now transformed clinical diagnosis, and is a world leading technology, now used in several 100 million clinical tests per year, world-wide. It has brought substantial income into Cardiff University, and Wales, and has received several accolades for this University, including the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education in 1998. In his own words, ‘It all started with me being curious about how a luminous jelly fish produced its flash’. The technology was selected in 2006 by the Eureka project from Universities UK as one of the 100 most important inventions and discoveries from UK Universities in the last 50 years. In 2010, a report from the Russell group of Universities on the impact of basic research on the economy selected Tony’s work on bioluminescence as the only case study from Wales.


Tony was born in 1945 in Bangor, North Wales, but grew up in London. He was educated at The City of London School, obtaining an exhibition, and then a first-class degree and PhD in Natural Sciences at Pembroke College, Cambridge. In 1970, he was appointed Lecturer at the Welsh National School of Medicine, where he worked for 40 years. He is now Professor in the Welsh School of Pharmacy, Cardiff University. His researches have taken him from the biochemistry of deep-sea bioluminescence to the molecular basis of disease and food intolerance. He is an international authority on intracellular signalling, particularly intracellular calcium, and in chemi- and bio-luminescence, discovering the most common bioluminescent chemistry in the sea. He pioneered genetic engineering of bioluminescent proteins to measure chemical events in living cells, including a way to target these to specific sites within the living cells. He has published 8 books, over 200 peer-reviewed papers, and several world-wide patents. He has discovered a new mechanism, explaining the symptoms of food intolerance, based on metabolic toxins from gut bacteria, which is important in diabetes and cancer. He has shown this explains the illness that afflicted Charles Darwin for 50 years.


Tony is a pioneer in Wales at engaging with schools and the public. The Public Understanding of Science in Health (PUSH) group that he founded in this University in 1993 involves some 150 staff at all levels across five academic Schools. This group runs events throughout the year, including Science in Health Open Day, regularly now with over 550 students and teachers (voted one of the top 3 events in National Science Week by the British Science Association in 2009), a public lecture programme, the Nuffield and other student research schemes. In 1994, he founded The Darwin Centre for Biology and Medicine (, and founded the Welston Court Science Centre in Pembrokeshire in 1996. This led, in 1999, to him founding the Pembrokeshire Darwin Science Festival, now in its twelfth year. The Darwin Centre is now a leading focus for outreach and public engagement in Wales, organising over 150 events each year, having received financial support from public and private sources, including the Millennium Festival, COPUS, EU, Dragon LNG, The Waterloo Foundation, and other organisations in Pembrokeshire. Staff at Cardiff University contribute regularly to the Darwin Centre events, which have impact nationally and internationally.


Tony is an outstanding lecturer, in demand nationally and internationally for his talks on Darwin and bioluminescence. In 2009, as part of Darwin200, he gave 35 Darwin lectures, including Singapore and Thailand. His work has been reported in national and local newspapers, including, the The Times, The Telegraph, the Sunday Times, The Western Mail, The South Wales Echo, and The Western Telegraph. He has written several books and articles for newspapers and magazines for a non-specialist audience, including Rubicon and his cookbook for people who are intolerant to lactose, as well as articles on bioluminescence, genetic engineering, Erasmus and Charles Darwin, lactose intolerance, and why Wales needs a Science policy.


He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society, and a Fellow of Royal Society of Arts. He has been a member of the Marine Biological Association since 1975, and The Biochemical Society since 1968. He is also a member of The History of Natural History Society, and The British Science Association. He is also a founder member of the Erasmus Darwin Foundation. In 2000, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Uppsala. Tony has gone on to win the Inspire Wales Award for Science and Technology (2011) and has been elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.