I undertook a degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Exeter specialising in Molecular Biology then went to the University of Oxford to undertake a DPhil investigating lipopolysaccharide of Haemophilus influenzae as a vaccine candidate in Richard Moxon's laboratory. During my post-doc positions at the National Institute for Medical Research followed by Imperial College working in Douglas Young's group, I investigated lipoarabinomannan as a novel TB vaccine candidate. As CoI on an NIH grant, I continued my research on TB at the affiliated TB group at the Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Surrey. After a career break, I decided to return to meningitidis-causing bacteria, and as PI at my local University, Kingston, I conducted research on the lipoprotein antigen, Factor H binding protein of Neisseria meningitidis. I was then given a Lecturership contract for 2 years and qualified as FHEA. In 2017 I was appointed as Assistant Professor to work in the Synthetic Biology Research Centre headed by Professor Minton, in the School of Life Sciences. My group is developing novel mucosal vaccine delivery systems funded by the School, BBSRC, MRC, MICRA and professional societies.
I have 4 PhD students, a senior technician, Dr Jaime Hughes, experienced in immunological assays and a PDRA, Dr Bunmi Omorotionmwan, experienced in Clostridial genetic engineering. My group is developing novel mucosal vaccine platforms and we are validating their efficacy against Clostridioides difficile. We plan to roll out our technologies to target priority AMR pathogens including Shigella, ETEC and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Our platforms include encapsulated recombinant antigens, probiotic and commensal recombinant spore platforms and encapsulated outer membrane vesicles.
I teach Medical Microbiology to undergraduates and MSc students in Life Sciences and to medical students on the following modules;
MEDS3059, Microorganisms and Disease (LIFE/1007), Microbial Genetics and Genomics (LIFE/4065), Prevention and Treatment of Infection (LIFE/4007) and Human Pathogens (LIFE/4116).
I supervise MSc and MSci students for their research projects.
I support the work of Professor Nigel Minton, Director of the Synthetic Biology Research Centre in developing novel therapies against Clostridium difficile and in his fundamental research to improve… read more
I support the work of Professor Nigel Minton, Director of the Synthetic Biology Research Centre in developing novel therapies against Clostridium difficile and in his fundamental research to improve our understanding of C. diff pathogenesis. C. diff is responsible for approximate 30, 000 deaths from the half a million or so cases 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.
My own area of research is in developing novel mucosal vaccine platforms which we are validating against C. diff, for which there is no approved vaccine. I have 4 PhD students, each developing a different vaccine platform, with funding mainly from the BBSRC-DTP scheme. The work of my group is supported by a senior technician and a post-doc both working full-time. With funding from the MRC (Confidence in Concept grant), we have conducted preclinical studies to test our first oral vaccine candidate and a manuscript of this study is now under review.
For the past 5 years I have also been working on Neisseria meningitidis investigating the molecular pathway for the lipidation and surface display of the meningococcal vaccine antigen, Factor H binding protein (FHbp) which has implications for FHbp-based vaccines. My student, Ronni da Silva, funded by the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) completed his PhD end of 2019 and is now at MIT Singapore.
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 vaccine candidate 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.
The longer term plan is to roll out our vaccine platforms to target other pathogens of high priority including Shigella. I am seeking to partner with industry.