School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Staff Profile

Emeritus Professor Michael Goodfellow

Senior Research Investigator



My main academic interests are in microbial systematics and biotechnology. One of my current research interests is to promote advances in, and enhance the general understanding of the extent of actinobacterial diversity in natural ecosystems and manmade habitats. To this end, innovative strategies are being developed for the selective isolation, dereplication and characterisation of actinomycetes using a range of genotypic and phenotypic procedures. One route that is being adopted for the discovery of novel actinomycetes is to determine the extent of actinobacterial diversity in neglected habitats, such as desert soils and deep sea muds, using both culture-based and culture independent approaches.


My undergraduate and postgraduate studies were at the University of Liverpool where I gained a Ph.D. in 1966 for a research project that introduced me to the wonderful world of microbial diversity. My interests in microbial ecology and microbial systematics were further developed first as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the State University of Pennsylvania then as a MRC Junior Research Fellow at the University of Leicester. My Ph.D. research and postdoctoral training provided me with a sound foundation on which to develop my interests in microbial systematics and ecology when I joined the University of Newcastle in 1969.

I have established and developed courses in microbial systematics and biotechnology throughout my career in Newcastle. In addition, I have led and managed the Microbial Resource Laboratory (MRC) for over 30 years and at any one time I’ve been responsible for between 10 and 20 colleagues, including support staff, postgraduate students, postdoctoral fellows and research associates. The MRC has and remains focussed on the development and application of state-of-the-art procedures designed to advance the systematics, ecology and commercialisation of actinobacteria. These bacteria form a monophyletic lineage in the prokaryotic domain and constitute a significant fraction of global bacterial biomass.

Together with colleagues, I’m currently using actinobacteria as a platform on which to address Research Council priority areas in predictive and integrative biology, notably by making the transition to the post-genomic agenda. The success of this and earlier strategies is to a considerable extent based on the achievements of gifted Ph.D postdoctoral students and guest scientists. The various student projects have provided ongoing basic research, biological material for funded research projects, support for development of methods, training support for visiting researchers and new Ph.D. students and teaching support for M.Sc. students.

Key achievements at the University of Newcastle include:

Thirty-five years research funding from sponsors such as the European Commission, Research Councils (BBSRC, ESRC, MRC and NERC), The British Council and industrial concerns, notably Glaxo Smith Kline, Novartis and Severn Trent Water (51 funded projects in total).

Successful supervision of 63 Ph.D., 4 M.Phil and innumerable M.Sc. project students.

International recognition for promoting actinobacterial biology and prokaryotic systematics, as exemplified by the award of international prizes,honorary degrees and invitations to present keynote/plenary lectures at international symposia.


University of Liverpool: B.Sc. Hons (1963); Ph.D. (1966); D.Sc. (1979).
Institute of Biology: C. Biol., F.I. Biol. (1978).



MBE for services to secondary education (2010).



Research Interests

Classification, naming, identification of prokaryotes, notably actinobacteria of clinical, ecological and industrial importance.

Selective isolation, dereplication and characterisation of novel actinobacteria of commercial and industrial importance.

Other Expertise

Molecular ecology, analytical chemistry and diagnostic microbiology.

Current Work

Selective isolation, dereplication, characterisation and screening of marine actinobacteria.

Defining criteria for establishing an agreed unit of prokaryotic diversity.

Determining the extent to which there is a taxonomic roadmap to biosynthetic genes.

Establishing the full range of causal agents of actinomycetoma and nocardiosis.

Future Research

Define criteria for actinobacterial indigenicity in marine habitats; increased efforts to isolate indigenous actinobacteria.

Focus on the isolation of rare marine actinobacteria (rare sensu small local populations, small geographical range and narrow habitat specificity).

Taxonomic revision of the genera Amycolatopsis, Gordonia, Nocardia, Rhodococcus and Streptomyces.

Research Roles

Facilitating the development of a UK-China Partnership to promote marine biotechnology, notably in the pharmaceutical domain.


diagnostics, vapA, isogenes, pathogenicity, PCR, Acidophilic actinomycetes, family streptomycetaceae, polyphasic taxonomy, Streptacidiphilus gen., Rhodococcus equi.