Department of Biochemistry University of Oxford
Oxford Biochemistry Building
Head of DepartmentFrancis Barr
Academic staff

51°45′34″N 1°15′17″W / 51.75943°N 1.25460°W / 51.75943; -1.25460

The Department of Biochemistry of Oxford University is located in the Science Area in Oxford, England. It is one of the largest biochemistry departments in Europe. The Biochemistry Department is part of the University of Oxford's Medical Sciences Division, the largest of the university's four academic divisions, which has been ranked first in the world for biomedicine.[1]


The old biochemistry Rudolf Peters Building, demolished in 2006

The Department of Biochemistry at Oxford University began as the physiological chemistry section of the Physiology Department, and acquired its own separate department and building in the 1920s.[2] In 1920, Benjamin Moore was elected to the position of the Whitley Professor of Biochemistry, the newly established Chair of Biochemistry at Oxford University.[3][4] He was followed by Rudolph Peters in 1923, and an endowment of £75,000 was soon granted by the Rockefeller Foundation for the construction of a new departmental building, purchase of its equipment, and its maintenance. The Biochemistry Department building opened in 1927.[5]

The New Biochemistry Building

In 1954, Hans Krebs was appointed the Whitley Chair of Biochemistry, and his appointment brought greater prominence to the department. He brought with him the Medical Research Council unit established to conduct research on cell metabolism.[6] In 1955, a second professorship in the department, the Iveagh Chair of Microbiology, was established with funding from Guinness and the sub-department of Microbiology created, with Donald Woods its first holder.[7] The eight-storey Hans Krebs Building was constructed in 1964 with funds from the Rockefeller Foundation. Krebs was succeeded by Rodney Porter in 1967. Genetics was brought into the Biochemistry Department when Walter Bodmer was appointed the first Professor of Genetics in 1970.[8] The Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics, first established in the Zoology Department with support from Krebs and also linked to the Physical Chemistry Laboratory of the Chemistry Department, became part of the Biochemistry Department. It moved into the Rex Richards building built in 1984, with David Phillips the Professor in Molecular Biophysics.[2] The Oxford Glycobiology Institute, headed by Raymond Dwek and housed in the Rodney Porter Building, opened in 1991.[9]

The department is now part of the Medical Sciences Division of Oxford University, under the Divisional Boards formed in 2000. In 2006, two older biochemistry buildings were demolished, and another two including the Han Krebs Tower in 2014, to make way for the two-phase construction of the New Biochemistry Building.[10][11] Francis Barr, the EP Abraham Professor of Mechanistic Cell Biology, is the head of the Biochemistry Department, replacing Mark Sansom, the David Phillips Professor in Molecular Biophysics, in January 2019.[12][13]


The department is sub-divided into the following research areas:[14]

Academic staff

There are around 400 research staff, with about 50 independent principal investigators who lead research groups that may range from a few people to forty or more.[14] Members of other departments also contribute to teaching, including lecturers in physiology, pathology, pharmacology, clinical biochemistry and zoology. The department hosts the Oxford University Biochemical Society, a graduate student association that invites speakers to the University of Oxford. The head of department is Professor Francis Barr.[15] Other members of the academic staff include Judy Armitage, Elspeth Garman, Jonathan Hodgkin, Kim Nasmyth, Neil Brockdorff, Rob Klose and Alison Woollard.[16]


The department currently has two main buildings:

Until 2006, two older buildings housing genetics (the Walter Bodmer building) and biochemistry (the Rudolph Peters building) were also part of the department. However, these were demolished in 2006 to make way for the first phase of the construction of the New Biochemistry building, completed in October 2008.[17] Until 2008 biochemistry also occupied the Donald Woods building and the Hans Krebs Tower, which were demolished in 2014 for the second phase of the construction.[18] Until 2022 biochemistry also occupied the Rodney Porter building (Oxford Glycobiology Institute).

The New Biochemistry building houses interdisciplinary research in the biosciences, including physiology, chemistry, biochemistry, and clinical neurosciences. The department moved into the purpose-built new biochemistry building during the autumn of 2008 which was designed to promote interaction and collaboration as well as provide facilities for all staff. The New Biochemistry building houses a substantial amount of contemporary art.[19]

Former departmental buildings


  1. ^ "Oxford named world's best for Medicine for seventh consecutive year". 8 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b Robert Joseph Paton Williams; Allan Chapman; John Shipley Rowlinson (6 November 2008). Chemistry at Oxford: A History from 1600 to 2005. Royal Society of Chemistry. p. 277. ISBN 978-0854041398.
  3. ^ "The New School of Biochemistry at Oxford". Nature. 120 (634–635): 634–635. 29 October 1927. doi:10.1038/120634a0.
  4. ^ T. W. Goodwin. "Chapter 1: The Emergence of Biochemistry in the United Kingdom" (PDF). History of the Biochemical Society 1911-1986. The Biochemical Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 March 2018. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  5. ^ Brian Harrison, ed. (7 April 1994). The History of the University of Oxford: Volume VIII: The Twentieth Century: The Twentieth-century. Clarendon Press (7 April 1994. p. 321. ISBN 978-0198229742.
  6. ^ "Oh to be in Oxford now that Krebs is there…!" (PDF). The Biochemist. The Biochemical Society. October 2010.
  7. ^ Quayle J. R. (1982). "Sir Hans Krebs, 1900-1981" (PDF). Journal of General Microbiology. 128: 2215–2220. doi:10.1099/00221287-128-10-2215. PMID 6759612.
  8. ^ "Sir Walter Bodmer and the Department of Genetics at Oxford University". The Bodleian Library. 18 October 2012.
  9. ^ Raymond Dwek (June 2006). "Glycobiology at Oxford: A personal view" (PDF). The Biochemist. Biochemical Society.
  10. ^ "Proposal: Demolition of Walter Bodmer, Donald Woods, Rudolph Peters and Hans Krebs Buildings, plus associated outbuildings" (PDF). Oxford City Council. 14 February 2006.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "University Science Area: Masterplan" (PDF). Oxford City Council. 16 January 2013.
  12. ^ "Key Personnel". Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford.
  13. ^ "Professor Francis Barr announced as the new Head of the Department of Biochemistry". Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford. 14 December 2018.
  14. ^ a b "About the Department". Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford.
  15. ^ "Professor Francis Barr announced as the new Head of the Department of Biochemistry". Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  16. ^ "Research Groups Section - Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford". Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  17. ^ Will Hunter (19 June 2009). "Hawkins Brown's Oxford University's biochemistry research facilities, Oxford". bdonline.
  18. ^ Matt Oliver (22 August 2014). "'Ugliest building' in Oxford comes down". Oxford Times.
  19. ^ "Salt Bridges". Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford.