Professor Anthony Campbell
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
My researchers have taken me from the biochemistry of deep-sea bioluminescence to the molecular basis of disease and food intolerance. I am international authority on intracellular signalling, particularly intracellular calcium, and in chemi- and bio-luminescence, discovering the most common bioluminescent chemistry in the sea, and 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. I have published 8 books, over 200 peer-reviewed papers, and several world-wide patents. I discovered a new mechanism, explaining the symptoms of food intolerance, based on metabolic toxins from gut bacteria, which is important in diabetes and cancer, and has shown this explains the illness that afflicted Charles Darwin for 50 years.
The Public Understanding of Science in Health (PUSH) group that I 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, I founded The Darwin Centre for Biology and Medicine (www.darwincentre.com), and founded the Welston Court Science Centre in Pembrokeshire in 1996. This led, to me 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.
I am also the founder of The Young Darwinian, a journal for school students to publish their projects and experiences - www.theyoungdarwinian.com
I am an expertise in chemi- and bio-luminescence, and proposed a revolutionary mechanism: 'The bacterial metabolic toxin hypothesis', which provides a new mechanism to explain some of the most common disorders seen by GPs, including irritable gut syndrome, lactose and food intolerance, diabetes and some cancers.
A member of the School's Pharmacology & Physiology Research Discipline.
Current areas of interest
- Calcium signalling and the measurement of free calcium in live cells, particularly bacteria
- Lactose and food intolerance, with other gut disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease
- Bioluminescence and its evolutionary origin
- Charles and Erasmus Darwin
- Public engagement of science
I am one of life's genuine enthusiasts. polymath, having extraordinary abilities as an original scientific thinker, inspiring communicator, musician, networker, and cook. As a result of my work on the bioluminescent jelly fish Obelia, I 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. '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 my work on bioluminescence as the only case study from Wales.
I was born in 1945 in Bangor, North Wales, but grew up in London, and 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, I was appointed Lecturer at the Welsh National School of Medicine, where I worked for 40 years. I am now Professor here.
I am a Fellow of the Linnean Society and have been a member of the Marine Biological Association since 1975, and The Biochemical Society since 1968. I am also a member of The History of Natural History Society, and The British Science Association, and a founder member of the Erasmus Darwin Foundation. In 2000, I was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Uppsala.
In 2020 I published a mystery novel entitled, Mirror Image: What Darwin Missed. The novel is a piece of science communication for lay readers to help explain some of the gaps in the theory of evolution by natural selection, and is set on the beautiful island of Anglesey off the coast of North Wales.
I was honoured to receive a CBE in the 2021 New years honours from Her Majesty the Queen. I was also a cofounder of The young Darwinian. And founded The Darwin Centre in 1994 where it has been a huge success in Pembrokeshire.
Honours and awards
- Inspire Wales Award for Science and Technology (2011)
- Fellow of the Linnean Society
- Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales