Mark Richmond is a molecular biologist whose research has centred on the genetics of bacterial infection. Mark identified the role of small units of DNA known as plasmids, which can replicate independently of chromosomes, in developing bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
Mark was responsible for the discovery of plasmids in Staphylococcus aureus that produce an enzyme conferring resistance to penicillin. Subsequently, he applied a unique combined molecular and epidemiological approach to the study of plasmids responsible for antibiotic resistance in gut bacteria such as E. coli. He then produced the first evidence that these resistance-producing plasmids could transfer between bacterial species, describing probable mechanisms of spread in the gut of humans and animals.
Mark was awarded the Robert Koch Prize in 1976 for his contributions to microbiology. In 1981, he became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, a post followed by a string of public appointments, including Chair of the Science and Engineering Research Council. From there, he moved into industry, becoming Global Head of Research at Glaxo.