Infections, Immunity and Microbes

Image of Ruth Griffin

Ruth Griffin

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences


  • workRoom B14 The University of Nottingham Biodiscovery Institute (BDI1)
    University Park
    NG7 2RD
  • work0115 74 86120


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.

Expertise Summary

I have supervised 5 PhD students to completion who have moved on to post-doc positions or industry and one of whom has been a PDRA in my group for the past year or so. I have mentored and trained another PDRA for 18 months who was recently appointed as a full-time Lecturer. I currently have 4 PhD students and 3 MSc students. 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 ETEC and Salmonella next. Our platforms include liposomes and outer membrane vesicles, recombinant antigens with M cell targeting peptides and engineered probiotic and commensal spore formers.

I review grants for the BBSRC, MRC and EPSRC and manuscripts for Microorganisms, Vaccines and Frontiers in Microbiology.

Teaching Summary

I convene a third year module, Pathogens (LIFE3035) and undertake the teaching on Vaccinology for this module and organise the oral presentations assessment. I deliver other lectures in Medical… read more

Research Summary

My area of research is in developing novel mucosal vaccine platforms which we are initially validating against Clostridioides difficile. C. diff is an urgent global health threat. Being a gut… read more

Recent Publications

I convene a third year module, Pathogens (LIFE3035) and undertake the teaching on Vaccinology for this module and organise the oral presentations assessment. I deliver other lectures in Medical Microbiology for both UG and PGT modules. For Microorganisms and Disease (LIFE1007) I give lectures on "Pathogen-Host interactions", "Gram-negative pathogens", "Gram-positive pathogens", "Anaerobes of clinical importance" and a 2-part series on "Diagnosis of infectious diseases". For Microbial Genetics and Genomics module (LIFE4143), I deliver lectures on "Bacterial Genomes" and on "Disease Diagnosis". For Prevention and Treatment of Infection (LIFE4007), I deliver a lecture on "Novel drugs as alternatives to antibiotics" and for the module Human Pathogens (LIFE4116), I give a lecture on "Medically important anaerobes".

Each year, I supervise MSc and BMedSci students for their research projects whereby students are given a component of cutting-edge research that is going on in my group.

Current Research

My area of research is in developing novel mucosal vaccine platforms which we are initially validating against Clostridioides difficile. C. diff is an urgent global health threat. Being a gut pathogen, we are focusing on delivery systems suitable for oral and intranasal administration to and generate local as well as systemic protective immune responses. My current PhD students are funded by the BBSRC DTP (Natalia Kotynska and Thomas White) and the Turkish Government (Bilgesu Kasurka). Together we are developing recombinant fusion protein vaccines and outer membrane vesicles (OMV) based vaccines supported by my MRC IAA grant. Several of my PhD students have now completed and moved on to careers in science in industry or academia. Cansu Karyal developed a lipoprotein:liposome-based oral platform with encouraging preclinical results mainly supported by my MRC CiC grant. The BBSRC DTP has funded the following 3 students: Carl Aston who worked on a commensal gut spore-forming bacterium to deliver engineered antigens to the small intestine, Barbora Martinkova who developed a recombinant E. coli OMV vaccine platform prototype and Liam Wood who has been testing a recombinant probiotic spore-forming organism assisted by my Post-Doc, Bunmi Omorotionmwan, initially funded by my MICRA, MRC CiC, BBSRC IAA grants then by a joint Wellcome Trust Prime award. Bunmi is now a permanent Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University. My PhD student, Ronni da Silva, funded by the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq), worked on pathogenic Neisseria and elucidated the molecular pathway for the biosynthesis, processing and surface localisation of the meningoccoal lipoprotein and vaccine antigen, Factor H binding protein (FHbp). Ronni is now a post-doc at MIT Singapore.

We are now ready to roll out our 2 main vaccine platforms (fusion proteins and OMVs) to target ETEC and Salmonella and I am keen to link up with experts in the enteric infections space and collaborate. I am also interested in developing in vivo models other than the mouse to test the efficacy of our vaccines directed against toxin-producing diarrheal pathogens.

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 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, 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.

Infections, Immunity and Microbes

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