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Ruth Griffin

Research and Teaching, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences

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Biography

BSc in Biological Sciences (Molecular Biology) at the University of Exeter, 1996

DPhil in Medical Molecular Microbiology at the University of Oxford, 2000

Postdoctoral Researcher at the MRC, National Institute for Medical Research, London, 2000-2003

Postdoctoral Researcher at Imperial College, London, 2003-2007 (PI of NIH grant at the affiliated TB group at AHVLA 2005-2007)

Career break raising family 2007-2013

Postdoctoral Researcher conducting independent research (0.5 FTE), Kingston University, 2013-2015

Lecturer, School of LIfe Sciences, Kingston University, 2015-2017

Assistant Professor, School of Life Sciences, The University of Nottingham, 2017.

Expertise Summary

Ruth has extensive experience in vaccine design and development for a number of bacterial pathogens including Haemophilius influenzae, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Neisseria meningitidis and more recently Clostridium difficile. Her research requires expertise in Bioinformatics to identify vaccine candidates from bacterial genomes, Recombinant DNA Technologies to clone and express antigens, Protein Chemistry to purify antigens for analysis by Mass Spectrometry and Immunological skills to analyse the efficacy and properties of her vaccines in in vivo and in vitro models respectively.

Teaching Summary

I previously taught undergraduates including first year students Molecular Genetics and delivered practicals on laboratory skills. I led practicals for second year students in enzyme kinetics and… read more

Research Summary

I am currently developing a vaccine to target Clostridium difficile for which there is no approved prophylactic. This bacterium is responsible for approximate 30, 000 deaths from the half a million… read more

Recent Publications

I previously taught undergraduates including first year students Molecular Genetics and delivered practicals on laboratory skills. I led practicals for second year students in enzyme kinetics and taught third year students Prokaryotic Genetics and Bioinformatics. I supervised final year project students and ran a first year module, Genes, Cells and Tissues.

I also taught Masters students, running practical classes on molecular methods to diagnose acute promyelocytic leukemia and supervising their research projects.

Current Research

I am currently developing a vaccine to target Clostridium difficile for which there is no approved prophylactic. This bacterium is responsible for approximate 30, 000 deaths from the half a million infected individuals each year in the US alone costing around $5 billion/year. Over the last year in England and Wales there have been up to 13, 000 cases of C. difficile infection (CDI). With the rise in antimicrobial-resistant strains and hyper-virulent isolates, CDI has become a global health threat.

I an using reverse vaccinology (in silico approaches including genome mining and applying predictive algorithms), to identify conserved antigens that are likely to be surface-exposed. The genes encoding the selected antigens will be cloned and over-expressed in Escherichia coli then purified and their vaccine potential tested in vivo. My PhD student, Cansu Karyal, funded by the School of Life Sciences, will be conducting this research.

I am also continuing with the research I conducted at Kingston University investigating the molecular pathway for the lipidation and export of the meningococcal vaccine antigen, Factor H binding protein (FHbp) In particular my focus has been on identifying the reason why some strains are not capable of exporting this antigen to the cell surface thus escape immune recognition and are therefore non-vaccine preventable by FHbp-based vaccines. This knowledge is important for generating improved vaccines. My PhD student, Ronni da Silva who is funded from the Brazilian Science without Borders program, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) has been working on this project for the past 2 years at Kingston University and will be transferring to The University of Nottingham to continue his PhD with me.

Past Research

My interest in developing vaccines against pathogenic bacteria began during my DPhil at the University of Oxford. Here I investigated the conservancy of lipopolysaccharide of Haemophilus influenzae, a candidate being tested at the time. With the breakthrough of the Hib vaccine successfully combating childhood meningitis caused by this bacterium, I went on to research a more life threatening bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis for which improved vaccines were urgently needed. At the National Institute for Medical Research I investigated lipoarabinonmannan as a possible vaccine antigen. In addition, I generated recombinant Mycobacterium bovis BCG over-expressing potent M. tuberculosis antigens to improve its immunogenicity. After securing funding from the NIH from a collaboration with Colorado State University and Institut Pasteur, I worked as PI at Imperial College then at the affiliated TB group at the AHVLA.

Following a career break raising my family, I chose to research Neisseria meningitidis, another bacterium that causes meningitis and septicaemia, at my local University, Kingston London. .

The research I have conducted on each bacterium has involved identifying the genes involved in the biosynthesis, assembly and export of vaccine antigens. A fundamental understanding of the molecular mechanism of expression of surface antigens moreover inefficiencies or failure to do so by certain strains enables improved prediction of vaccine efficacy as well as more robust evaluation of clinical trial data.

Future Research

Upon success of developing an effective vaccine against C. difficile, I would like to expand my vaccine research to target other bacterial pathogens including Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

School of Life Sciences

University of Nottingham
Medical School
Queen's Medical Centre
Nottingham NG7 2UH

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