Sittingbourne scientist, John Cornford, won Nobel prize for chemistry
by Rachael Woods
A small building in rural Sittingbourne once housed a team
of top scientists whose groundbreaking research helped bring vital
medicines to the market.
The Milstead Laboratory of Chemical Enzymology at Shell
Research, Sittingbourne, was established by Lord Victor Rothschild
in 1963 and its team of just 12 scientists were to make some
John Cornford, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in
1975, worked with co-director George Popjack, on a study of how
cholesterol was made in living tissues.
This knowledge led to the design of molecules that lowered the
amount of cholesterol the body makes – and eventually to the
development of statins – the cholesterol-busting drugs that are now
widely used across the world.
Professor Brian Beechey, who was one of the original Milsted
scientists, is organising a reunion to mark the 50th anniversary of
the founding of the laboratories, at the site where Kent Science
Park now stands.
He recalls: “The scientists were in buildings with hop fields on
one side and shared the site with a nearby farm where we could see
cows coming in for milking.
“Yet there was world-class science going on in a sleepy part of
Sittingbourne. It really was an exciting time when science and
industry were coming together to solve problems and a happy place
Prof Beechey has particular praise for the lab technicians who
turned the lathes, worked on electronics and carried out their own
He said: “One truly outstanding aspect of the staff was the
technicians; to say that their talents were unbelievably
multifunctional is not an exaggeration.”
The Milstead laboratory was the smallest of four at the
Woodstock Agricultural Research Centre in Sittingbourne.
The work of the other laboratories resulted in the development
of commercially successful biocides and improved food
The reunion is on Wednesday, May 8, at Kent Science
Park. It starts at midday and for more information contact Prof
Beechey at email@example.com
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