Richard Sykes (biochemist)

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Sir Richard Sykes
Richard Brook Sykes

(1942-08-07) 7 August 1942 (age 78)
Alma mater
Known for
Scientific career
ThesisStudies on the ß-lactamases of Pseudomonas aeruginosa' (1972)

Sir Richard Brook Sykes, FRS FMedSci HonFREngHonFREng[8] (born 7 August 1942) is chairman of the Royal Institution[9] and Imperial College Healthcare,[10] and Chancellor of Brunel University.[11] Sykes also chairs the UK Stem Cell Foundation and is Non-executive director of Lonza AG.[12]


Sykes was educated at Queen Elizabeth College where he graduated with a BSc degree in Microbiology.[13] He went on to study for a PhD degree in Microbial biochemistry at the University of Bristol, graduating in 1972 with thesis on beta-lactamases of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.[13][14][15][16]


Until 2002, Sykes was chairman of GlaxoSmithKline, following a research career in Glaxo and Glaxo Wellcome. He was rector of Imperial College London, UK, from 2001 to 2008.[17] In October 2008, Sykes accepted Farad Azima's invitation to join the NetScientific Group[18] as the non-executive chairman. Sir Richard was the senior independent director and non-executive deputy chairman and chairman of the remuneration committee of Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) until June 2011.

Imperial College[edit]

Between January 2001 and July 2008, Sykes was the rector of Imperial College London.[19]

Sykes's tenure was not without controversy.

  • In 2004 he spearheaded an abortive attempt to merge Imperial College with University College London.[6][7]
  • He supported the lifting of the £3,000 cap on tuition fees and instead allowing the universities to set fees at anything up to £10,000, a proposal opposed by many student-representing societies. This was long before UK coalition government reforms that allow £9,000 fees to be charged from 2011.[citation needed]
  • His predecessor at Imperial had brokered a merger with the University of London's agricultural college, Wye College. Sykes overturned a promise to keep Agricultural Sciences taught at Wye at the end of 2004.[citation needed] By 2005 Imperial announced plans to create a non-food crops and biomass fuels research centre, anchoring a major housing development on College land. The true extent of these plans, which would have seen the small academic village become a town, were kept secret from the public by Imperial, Ashford Borough Council and Kent County Council.[citation needed] Plans collapsed in June 2006 after media leaks and loss of their potential industry partner, and Imperial then renounced all development aspirations for the campus and surrounding land.[20] The Save.Wye campaign described Sykes as " avaricious businessman posing as an academic" after the full extent of the plans were revealed.[21] A book by David Hewson [20] details the entire episode.
  • In March 2006 his salary became the centre of attention amongst Imperial College staff and students after the students' union newspaper, Felix, published a front-page article highlighting how much he was paid.[citation needed] Sir Richard received a salary £305,000 a year,[citation needed] the second highest among university principals after Professor Laura Tyson, dean of the London Business School.

On 1 July 2008, he was succeeded as rector of Imperial College by Professor Roy Anderson.

Other activities[edit]

Sykes was chairman of the advisory panel of the think-tank Reform.[22] He was a trustee of the Natural History Museum, London from 1996 to 2005 and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 2003 to 2005.[23] He was president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science for 1998–99.

In September 2008, he was appointed chair of NHS London, but resigned in May 2010 over the decision of the Cameron Ministry to halt planned hospital reorganisations in London.[24]

He was a member of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education that published an influential report in 1997.[25] He is a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering.[26]

He joined Adcurata Cultural Change Advisory Board in September 2012 to advise on the pharmaceutical and healthcare markets.

Awards and honours[edit]

Sykes holds a number of honorary degrees, including ones from the universities of Birmingham, Brunel, Cranfield, Edinburgh, Hertfordshire, Huddersfield, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Madrid, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield Hallam, Sheffield, Strathclyde, Surrey, Warwick and Westminster. Sykes was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci) in 1998.[27] He was also appointed as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (HonFREng) in 2004.[8]

Sykes was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1997. His nominations reads

Richard Sykes is distinguished both as an experimental scientist and as a major force in the British pharmaceutical industry. He has, in his own right, made important experimental contributions to microbiology, of which the best known are his work on B-lactamases, and the discovery of the first monocyclic B-lactam antibiotic, aztreonam. The latter was not an accidental finding or simply the outcome of routine screening. Sykes was personally responsible for the development of imaginative new micro-screens of much greater sensitivity than those in use in the antibiotic industry at the time, and these ultra-sensitive screens enabled him to detect compounds present in trace amounts that were not detectable by standard methods. Aztreonam proved to be a major advance in the treatment of gram-negative infections. In 1986 Sykes rejoined Glaxo where he is now Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive of Glaxo Holdings plc. His influence within Glaxo and the pharmaceutical industry generally has been marked by a firm conviction of the overriding importance of good fundamental science, and this has found expression not only in the massive development of Glaxo R and D, but also in the vigorous interaction of the company with the university sector in the United Kingdom. He also makes a significant positive contribution to national science policy. The case for the election of Richard Sykes as a general candidate is very strong.[28]

Sykes was knighted in the 1994 New Year Honours.[1] In 1999 he was awarded the Singaporean Public Service Star for his services to the economy of Singapore.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Sir Richard Sykes DSc – 1994 Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Richmond, M. H.; Sykes, R. B. (1973). "The β-Lactamases of Gram-Negative Bacteria and their Possible Physiological Role". Advances in Microbial Physiology Volume 9. Advances in Microbial Physiology. 9. p. 31. doi:10.1016/S0065-2911(08)60376-8. ISBN 9780120277094.
  3. ^ Sykes, R. B.; Cimarusti, C. M.; Bonner, D. P.; Bush, K.; Floyd, D. M.; Georgopapadakou, N. H.; Koster, W. H.; Liu, W. C.; Parker, W. L.; Principe, P. A.; Rathnum, M. L.; Slusarchyk, W. A.; Trejo, W. H.; Wells, J. S. (1981). "Monocyclic β-lactam antibiotics produced by bacteria". Nature. 291 (5815): 489–91. Bibcode:1981Natur.291..489S. doi:10.1038/291489a0. PMID 7015152. S2CID 4303108.
  4. ^ Datta, N; Hedges, R. W.; Shaw, E. J.; Sykes, R. B.; Richmond, M. H. (1971). "Properties of an R factor from Pseudomonas aeruginosa". Journal of Bacteriology. 108 (3): 1244–9. doi:10.1128/JB.108.3.1244-1249.1971. PMC 247211. PMID 4945193.
  5. ^ Sykes, R. B.; Bonner, D. P.; Bush, K; Georgopapadakou, N. H. (1982). "Azthreonam (SQ 26,776), a synthetic monobactam specifically active against aerobic gram-negative bacteria". Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. 21 (1): 85–92. doi:10.1128/aac.21.1.85. PMC 181833. PMID 6979307.
  6. ^ a b Opposition ends Imperial and UCL merger dream, The Guardian 2002-11-18
  7. ^ a b GlaxoSmithKline – Lessons of a Failed Merger: Matthew Lynn
  8. ^ a b c "List of Fellows".
  9. ^ New chair for science institution BBC News 2010-09-16
  10. ^ Sir Richard Sykes appointed new Chair at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
  11. ^ Sir Richard Sykes appointed Chancellor of Brunel University Archived 14 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ ENRC Management Archived 28 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ a b "SYKES, Sir Richard (Brook)". Who's Who 2014, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014; online edn, Oxford University Press.(subscription required)
  14. ^ Sykes, Richard Brook (1972). Studies on the B-lactamases of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PhD thesis). University of Bristol.[citation needed]
  15. ^ Bush, K.; Freudenberger, J. S.; Sykes, R. B. (1982). "Interaction of azthreonam and related monobactams with beta-lactamases from gram-negative bacteria". Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. 22 (3): 414–20. doi:10.1128/AAC.22.3.414. PMC 183759. PMID 6982680.
  16. ^ Richard Sykes's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  17. ^ Biography — Sir Richard Sykes Archived 16 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ NetScientific Group.
  19. ^ Sir Richard Sykes: Rector 2001–08 Archived 16 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Imperial College London, UK.
  20. ^ a b David Hewson. 2007. Saved; How an English village fought for its survival and won. Leicester: Troublador Publishing
  21. ^, 7 April 2007.
  22. ^ "Tax cuts, yes, but first reform public services. Daily Telegraph 3 September 2006".
  23. ^ ‘SYKES, Sir Richard (Brook)’, Who's Who 2016, A & C Black, 2016; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2015 ; online edn, Nov 2015
  24. ^ Randeep Ramesh (26 May 2010). "NHS London chief Richard Sykes resigns in care review row". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
  25. ^ "Higher Education in the learning society: Main Report". Education England. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  26. ^ "Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering". Archived from the original on 28 August 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  27. ^ Fellow Sir Richard Sykes FRS FMedSci - website of the Academy of Medical Sciences
  28. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue EC/1997/33 Sir Richard Brook". London: The Royal Society.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Ronald Oxburgh
Rector of Imperial College London
Succeeded by
Roy Anderson
Preceded by
John Wakeham, Baron Wakeham
Chancellor of Brunel University
Succeeded by