Julian Davies is an active Professor Emeritus in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology (M&I) at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He is a microbiologist recognized for his work on the mode of action of antibiotics and the mechanisms of antibiotic resistance. In particular he has proposed that antibiotics serve two functions: as signaling agents in nature and as therapeutic agents in clinical practice. Davies has also contributed to studies of the origins and evolution of antibiotic resistance genes. Davies was born in Neath, South Wales in 1932 and attended the University of Nottingham, U.K. where he received a BSc (1953) and PhD (1956) in Chemistry. After postdoctoral fellowships at Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin he taught at the University of Manchester Institute of Technology. In 1962 he switched to microbiology at Harvard Medical School followed by two years at the Institute Pasteur in Paris. He joined the Biochemistry Department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 1967 as Associate Professor and subsequently Professor. In 1980 he became as Scientific Director of the Geneva operation biotech company Biogen. He left 1986 to become Director of the Microbial Engineering Unit at the Institute Pasteur. He joined UBC as Professor and Head of M&I in 1992. In 1997 he founded the West-East Centre for research on antibiotic discovery and this was morphed into TerraGen Diversity (acquired by Cubist Pharmaceuticals in 2000). In 2000 he was President of American Society of Microbiology and also became President of the International Union of Microbiological Societies. He is a fellow of the Royal Society London and the Royal Society of Canada

Research Interests

My laboratory research is focused on antibiotic: their discovery, mode of action, mechanisms of resistance and their functions in the environment. With respect to resistance, we are studying the role of wastewater treatment as a means of amplifying and disseminating resistance genes. Metagenomic studies indicate that a wide variety of resistance genes are present in treatment plants and that these are assembled in a variety of clusters in transferable elements such as plasmids and phage. As a side project we are isolating bacteriophage that use Gram-negative pathogens as hosts in an attempt to develop phage-antibiotic combinations as novel therapeutic treatments for multi drug resistance pathogens. We are applying genetic and metagenomic approaches to the discovery of novel antibiotics from various sources. In this case we are not screening for compounds with antibiotic activity but for novel biosynthetic pathways in microbial populations. Finally my laboratory is working on novel approached to antimicrobial therapy by studying the mode of action of "therapeutic" clays.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 44: Microbial Biology

Secondary Section

Section 63: Environmental Sciences and Ecology