Harnessing and Manipulating Microbiology

The microbiology and biotechnology sub-theme seeks to understand the mechanisms which underpin microbial growth, and exploit these mechanisms alongside their interactions with their host and environment.

The home of the multi-million pound interdisiplinary BEACON research centre, we are harnessing fungal and bacterial understanding. This allows us to fight antifungal resistance, and find novel uses of bacteria in-order to tackle a variety of health challenges. We seek to identify new markers that will help us predict risk factors in developing severe infections in humans and animals.

Microbiology and Biotechnology Research Focus Areas

We continue to explore avenues of research into how different bacteria and CYPs enzymes can be used in medicine and biotechnology. We work with clinicians, engineers and industry to optimise and find new approaches for using bacteria in a variety of contexts.We work collaboratively with global research groups and industrial partners to understand diverse microbiological mechanisms to develop novel biotechnology.

Research Outcomes

We are advancing the use of bacteria to control insect populations, identifying biomarkers to help predict invasive infections in humans and animals. Our specific research into CYPs aims to understand the function of their proteins. We aim to harness bacteria, CYP functions and their biological signatures to treat disease and successfully manage challenges in agriculture, all with the direct aim of improving health and wellbeing. Our work is developing new active molecules and research enabling new therapies and a better of understanding of drug resistance, tailoring individualised responses to therapy and biotechnological applications.

Colonies of Streptomyces producing a blue antibiotic

Gene silencing in non-model insects

The technology that we have developed offers a highly targeted population control measure for pest insects. This animation explains how bacterial symbionts can be used to deliver continual RNA interference in the most diverse group of animals, the insects. 

Tumour-targeting bacteria

We use bacteria to light up tumours and deliver information to stop tumour cells growing. The therapeutic payload delivered by the bacteria does not have the side-effects.

Visit the Exploring Global Problems Podcast to Listen to Professor Dyson's Interview on this research area.

Control of Fungal Diseases

Every year fungal diseases across the world cost the agricultural industry millions in destroyed and damaged crops. Fungicides being less effective as resistance amongst target fungi grows, and the need to use evermore fungicides being used also result in ecological damage.

It was important to develop a fungicide which would do the job of destroying the target fungicide whilst not inhibiting processes within the host whether plant or animal. This step would result in a more effective fungicide and similarly reduce ecological damage.

Research looking at sample

Identifying biomarkers to predict invasive infections in humans and animals

The global burden of disease is dominated by microorganisms that cause severe invasive infections (e.g sepsis) and are associated with high morbidity and mortality. My group focuses on assessing host and microbial cell response to identify patterns in local (skin, lung or gut) infections that predict the likelihood of progression to severe infections (blood). Our research identifies biomarkers that will help the NHS predict those at risk for developing severe infections and help save lives.

Researchers looking at microscope image on digital screen

Host and bacterial biomarkers to predict sepsis

Current estimates suggest that sepsis accounts for about 20% of all global deaths - a staggering 11 million people annually. Simple early predictors of sepsis syndrome are needed to identify at risk patients. In a collaboration with colleagues in the Hywel Dda University Health Board, archived collections of blood culture positive Escherichia coli are being investigated for their gene content and their ability to generate immune responses together with the medical records of the patients. The resulting data from host and pathogen will provide important new risk factors to predict sepsis.

Campylobacter colonies on petri dish

Host pathogen interactions important in the movement of Campylobacter jejuni fro

The UK is self-sufficient in chicken meat, which is an affordable source of protein. Campylobacter is an important organism responsible for food poisoning in humans due to its spread from the chicken gut to muscle and liver. In collaboration with colleagues, in the Scottish Rural Collage, Newcastle, Leicester and industry stakeholders, our work in this project investigates important genes in Campylobacter, and important immune signatures in the chicken that favour invasive responses that can decrease food biosecurity. The resulting data will guide new biosecurity measures for the chicken industry

Affiliated Researchers

Our team combines the experience of molecular microbiology and entomology.

Dr Ricardo Del Sol Abascal

Associate Professor, Biomedical Sciences
+44 (0) 1792 295191
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Professor Paul Dyson

Professor, Biomedical Sciences
+44 (0) 1792 295667
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Professor Venkat Kanamarlapudi

Professor of Molecular Cell Biology, Biomedical Sciences
+44 (0) 1792 295012
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Professor Diane Kelly

Professor Emeritus (Medicine), Medical School
+44 (0) 1792 602184

Professor Steven Kelly

Professor Emeritus (Human & Health Sciences), Medicine Health and Life Science
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Professor David Lamb

Professor, Biomedical Sciences
+44 (0) 1792 602178
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Dr Josie Parker

Honorary Appointment (Human & Health Sciences), Medicine Health and Life Science
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Dr Claire Price

Senior Lecturer, Biomedical Sciences
+44 (0) 1792 205678 ext 9305
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Dr Anna Seager

Research Culture Manager, Research Engagement & Innovation Services
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Dr Geertje Van Keulen

Associate Professor, Biomedical Sciences
+44 (0) 1792 602669
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Dr Andrew Warrilow

Honorary Appointment (Human & Health Sciences), Medicine Health and Life Science
+44 (0) 1792 205678 ext 9138
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Professor Thomas Wilkinson

Professor, Biomedical Sciences
Available For Postgraduate Supervision