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Dr Peter Reynolds

Dr Peter Reynolds is an Emeritus Fellow at Magdalene.

At the start of my first year as a PhD student I was given a bottle containing a pink powder and told by my professor; “find out what it does and your PhD is in the bottle”. The powder was an antibiotic, I found out quite quickly that at low concentrations it killed staphylococci by inhibiting cell wall synthesis in a different way to penicillins and structurally-related antibiotics and so my interest was borne in chemotherapy.

The pink powder turned out to be Vancomycin – widely used in hospitals today in the treatment of MRSA, the multiply resistant Staphylococcus aureus. My interest developed from Biochemistry, through Chemical Microbiology to Molecular Biology and Bacterial Molecular Genetics where I was greatly assisted by the foremost clinical microbiologist in France at the Pasteur Institute, Professor Patrice Courvalin. During my studies of 40 years so the research changed from relatively elementary investigations of mode of action of antibiotics to studies of penicillin-binding proteins, isolation of plasmids containing the complex of resistance genes involved in vancomycin resistance to the isolation and crystallization of individual proteins.

I was also involved to a limited extent in the development of an antibiotic related to Vancomycin, namely Teicoplanin, also used in the treatment of MRSA. The company making the compound was about to ignore it because the yield in the ‘mother liquor of the fermentation’ was relatively poor. In listening to the producers, chemists, microbiologists in the Company, I suggested the yield could be increased very simply by altering the pH of the medium to release the antibiotic from the cell wall where it was bound. I was informed some years later that had it not been for the advice the antibiotic would never have been marketed.

Research Interests

Bacterial structure and metabolism



PhD, ScD

Career/Research Highlights

Royal Society European Research Fellowship at University of Liège (1972)

Senior CIBA Fellowship at Pasteur Institute, Paris (1996)

Garrod Medal, British Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (1996)

Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship at Pasteur Institute, Paris (2001)

Elected to Honorary membership of the Société Francaise de Microbiologie (2002)

Professional Affiliations

1983 – 1991 and 1997 – 2002  Editorial Board, Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy

1999 – 2002  Editorial Board, Microbial Drug Resistance

Selected Publications

The Molecular Basis of Antibiotic Action: Gale, E.F., Cundliffe, E., Reynolds, P.E., Richmond, M.H. & Waring, M.J. Second Edition 1981. J.Wiley, London & New York.

Reynolds, P.E. & Chase, H.A. (1981) β-lactam-binding proteins: identification as lethal targets and probes of β-lactam accessibility. In 'β-lactam antibiotics: mode of action, new developments and future prospects'. Eds Salton, M.R.J. & Shockman, G.D. pp 153-168. Academic Press, New York.

Reynolds, P.E. (1989) Structure, biochemistry and mechanism of action of glycopeptide antibiotics. Eur. J. Clin. Microbiol. 8, 943-950.

Reynolds, P.E. (1998) Control of peptidoglycan synthesis in vancomycin-resistant enterococci: D,D-peptidases and D,D-carboxypeptidases. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 54, 325-331.