Professor Keith Campbell, 1954–2012

Professor Keith Campbell
11 Oct 2012 22:00:00.000


Tributes have been paid to internationally renowned scientist Professor Keith Campbell, who has died at the age of 58.

Professor Campbell was instrumental in the creation of Dolly the Sheep, the first cloned mammal, a breakthrough which paved the way for the successful cloning of many other mammal species.

Professor Campbell was known around the world for his pioneering work and was jointly awarded the Shaw Prize for Life Science and Medicine in 2008.

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The Shaw Prize – one of the most prestigious scientific accolades in the world – honours individuals who have achieved significant breakthroughs in scientific research, and whose work has resulted in a positive and profound impact on mankind.

Professor Campbell was a cell biologist/embryologist with a research career spanning more than 30 years, the majority of which was in the field of cell growth and differentiation. He joined the University of Nottingham in 1999 as Professor of Animal Development in the School of Biosciences.

A brilliant scientist

Professor David Greenaway, Vice-Chancellor of The University of Nottingham, said: “Keith was a brilliant scientist. His work was genuinely transformational and inspirational. His pioneering research was revolutionary.

“That, together with his passion for science, will ensure he is justifiably remembered for all he accomplished. Keith was also an outstanding colleague whose absence leaves a huge gap. He will be greatly missed. I offer my deepest respect and sympathy to his family.”

An online Book of Condolence has been set up on the University of Nottingham website.

Professor Campbell began his career by qualifying as a Medical laboratory Technologist specialising in Medical Microbiology, before obtaining a BSc (Hons) in Microbiology from Queen Elizabeth College London. He then went onto the Marie Curie Institute and subsequently the University of Sussex, where he was awarded a D.Phil.

The Roslin Institute

Following two postdoctoral positions he joined the Roslin Institute in Scotland in 1991, where he applied his previous experience to the production of mammalian embryos by nuclear transfer. Dolly the Sheep, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult derived somatic cell, was born in 1996.

Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, who worked with Professor Campbell on the creation of Dolly the Sheep, said: “Always cheerful and friendly, Keith will be greatly missed by all of his friends and colleagues.

“His research blossomed after he came to Roslin Institute where in a series of papers he put the intellectual framework into the method of mammalian cloning that ultimately led to the birth of Dolly in 1996. He then moved to PPLTherapeutics, the company that was spun out from Roslin Institute, where that procedure and his expertise led to the birth of cloned and genetically modified sheep, pigs and cattle.

“In 1999 he was tempted into academia by an offer from the University of Nottingham as Professor of Animal Development. There he continued his research on the cloning and genetic modification of livestock. Much of this research was presented and discussed at the annual meeting of the International Embryo Transfer Society where he will be remembered as an enthusiastic participant in discussions on current topics. He will be sorely missed, but not forgotten.”

Pioneering studies

Professor Kevin Sinclair worked with Professor Campbell at the University of Nottingham’s School of Biosciences.

Professor Sinclair said: “Keith was a giant in the field of reproductive biology. His pioneering studies into cell-cycle control and cellular differentiation led to the programme of work at Roslin that gave birth to the first mammal to be cloned from adult cells – ie. Dolly the sheep.

“This pioneering study has helped pave the way for others to develop gene and stem-cell based strategies for therapeutic purposes. He was an inspiration to both his colleagues and students at Nottingham, and will be greatly missed by all. Our thoughts are currently with his family and loved ones at this difficult time.”

Professor Neil Crout, Head of the School of Biosciences, said: “Keith was a valued and respected colleague who will be sadly missed across the School of Biosciences.

“His work and scientific achievements speak for themselves and his death is a great loss for developmental biology. Inevitably most people will remember him for Dolly the sheep although his recent work was focused on fundamental and applied stem cell research as a tool for the study of human disease.”

A great friend and collaborator

Professor Jus St.John, Director of the Centre for Reproduction & Development at Monash University, Australia, said: “Keith Campbell was an outstanding and inventive scientist whose foresight and work led to major changes in how we now ask scientific questions and make significant advances.

“Very few scientists of Keith's calibre exist and when they are successful, their impact is immense. The generation of Dolly, which he was the intellectual leader of, was an advance that triggered a revolution in scientific investigation. Without Keith's input, the field of cellular reprogramming would not have made the significant advances that it has.

“I will sorely miss Keith as a great friend and collaborator. I will especially miss designing scientific experiments with him in a relaxed manner that encouraged one to delve deeper.”

Professor Bob Webb, Chief Executive and Principal of the SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College), was a colleague of Professor Campbell at both the University of Nottingham and the Roslin Institute.

Professor Webb said: “Keith’s work has had a major impact on our thinking and on our research. He, along with Professor Ian Wilmut and the team, achieved something that at the time was completely novel and ground breaking. This breakthrough opened up new opportunities which have had major scientific impact. His death is a very sad loss for the scientific community – not just in the UK, but internationally as well.”

A deep love for science

Jose Cibelli, Professor of Animal Biotechnology at Michigan State University in the USA, said: “I knew Dr Campbell for almost two decades, first as a competitor, then as a colleague and then as a dear friend.

“While he is known worldwide by the general public because of his role in the generation of Dolly the cloned sheep, his contributions to science are enormous and will be forever lasting. He developed new techniques to produce therapeutic proteins in domestic animals and was the first person to clone pigs, now being used for the generation of organs to potentially treat patients in need of organ transplantation.

“Thanks to his dedication and brilliant intellect the field of regenerative medicine is today closer to the clinics. We anticipate that within the next five years, patients suffering from degenerative diseases will be treated – if not cured – using technology introduced by Dr Campbell. All these scientific breakthroughs Professor Campbell gave us did not happen by chance; they are the product of years of study, hands-on experimentation and above all, a deep love for science.”

Dr Alan Colman, Executive Director of the Singapore Stem Cell Consortium, first met Professor Campbell when he was a postgraduate at Sussex University.

Paying tribute to Professor Campbell’s key role in the work that led to the creation of Dolly the Sheep, Dr Colman said: “The Dolly experiment could not have succeeded without the experimental precision and persistence Keith demonstrated. It was a seminal demonstration of the ability of the mammalian egg to reprogram a somatic nucleus back to a pluripotent state. The main legacy of Dolly was the impact it had on fellow scientists – what seemed impossible suddenly seemed achievable. All down to Keith’s work.

“Science has lost an exceptional scientist and I have lost a great friend.” 

Professor Campbell is survived by his wife, Kathy Campbell and his two adult daughters, Claire and Lauren Mills.

The funeral has been arranged for 10:30 am on Wednesday 24th October at Bretby Crematorium, Burton Upon Trent, DE15 OQE. If you wish to attend please contact

— Ends —

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More information is available from Tim Utton, Deputy Director, Communications, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 846 8092
Tim Utton

Tim Utton - Deputy Director of Communications

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8092 Location: University Park

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