Sir David Hopwood FRS

David Hopwood is a microbiologist and geneticist, and a leading authority in microbial genetics. David developed original systems of genetic — or linkage — mapping and his work has formed the basis for the genetic engineering of bacteria to produce ‘designer’ antibiotics that promise to overcome antibiotic resistance.

David pioneered research into group of antibiotic-producing bacteria called Streptomyces, sequencing an entire genome for one strain. He was the first to clone both a gene involved in antibiotic production and a complete set of genes for an antibiotic. He later discovered that the group of soil-dwelling bacteria called Actinomycetales (to which Streptomyces belongs) have ‘sleeping’ genes that, if switched on, could form the basis of drugs to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In 2014, for his work in producing the first hybrid antibiotic through genetic engineering, David came fifth in the Society of Biology’s poll of people who have changed the world with biology. He won the 1995 Royal Society’s Gabor Medal for his distinguished work in genetic engineering and molecular biology and was knighted in 1994.

Subject groups

  • Biochemistry and molecular cell biology

    Molecular microbiology

  • Microbiology, immunology and developmental biology

    Genetics (excluding population genetics), General microbiology (incl bacteriology and virology)


  • Gabor Medal

    In recognition of his pioneering and leading the growing field of the genetics of Streptomyces, and for developing the programming of the pervasive process of polyketide synthesis.

  • Leeuwenhoek Medal and Lecture

    On 'Towards an understanding of gene switching in streptomyces, the basis of sporulation and antibiotic production'.

Sir David Hopwood FRS
Elected 1979