Taming microbes

Some microbes make us sick, others are important to our health. Biofilms, communities of microbes that attach to each other and surfaces, are central to our most important global challenges – from antimicrobial resistance and food safety to water security. Our bug-resistant polymers applied to urinary catheters and development of vaccines against pathogenic bacteria are making a difference to people’s lives.

Understanding microbe evolution and sociology and their relevance to antimicrobial resistance is the key focus for our research.  As a group of molecular microbiologists, we apply multidisciplinary approaches to design novel antimicrobials, and understand bacterial communities with the aim to prevent, detect, manage and engineer biofilms.

Our research interests specifically focus on the ways in which bacteria control virulence through cell-cell communication (quorum sensing) and targeting these mechanisms as an antimicrobial strategy though the inhibition of bacterial quorum sensing signalling mechanisms, novel target discovery and the development of new approaches to treat biofilm-mediated infections.

In addition, we investigate bacterial protein secretion, the interrelationship between quorum sensing and metabolism and its impact on microniches within biofilms on surfaces and in 3D skin infection models.  We research environmental sensing and gene regulation in bacteria, notably by non-coding RNAs and post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms and we are working to uncover the molecular genetic mechanisms underpinning how plague (black death) spreads through the environment and its animal hosts. Finally, we investigate the mechanisms of action of biofilm resistant biomaterials for preventing medical device associated infections.

The Division for Infections, Immunity and Microbes is dedicated to advancing knowledge and improving human health through internationally recognized microbiology and immunology research.

Research project highlights

Our research programmes, predominantly funded by the MRC and BBSRC, investigate the molecular mechanisms of action and resistance of bacterial pathogens to antibiotic therapy in order to address the emergence, rapid spread and persistence of multi-antibiotic resistant bacteria. 

We co-lead the Nottingham hub of the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC). NBIC is an Innovation Knowledge Centre (IKC) funded by BBSRC, Innovate UK, and the Hartree Centre aimed at establishing a network of research and innovation capacity to catalyse collaboration between academia and industry in the study of biofilms.

With colleagues in the School of Pharmacy, we are involved in multidisciplinary research programmes aimed at understanding how new materials can resist biofilm formation with programmes funded by EPSRC and The Wellcome Trust.

We lead the Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Programme in Antimicrobials and Antimicrobial Resistance in collaboration with the University of Birmingham.


Our researchers

Search the table below to find out more about our researchers. You are able to filter the table by searching for names, keywords, and techniques.

Full list of our researchers
NameResearch keywordsResearch techniques
Steve Atkinson Yersinia pestis, plague, black death, molecular genetic pathways, antibiotic resistance Plague insect infection, soil infection, molecular genetics of plague
Miguel Camara Biofilms, quorum sensing, antimicrobials, microbial gene regulation, antimicrobial target discovery Biofilm model design, biofilm imaging, bacterial transcriptomics, bioreporter design, HTP antimicrobial testing
Weng Chan Antibiotic discovery, medicinal chemistry, chemical biology, anti-virulence, peptide chemistry Solid-phase peptide synthesis, organic synthesis, in vitro microbial assay, drug design
Jonas Emsley Structural biology, protein crystallography, protease structure, receptor structure, drug development Protein crystallography, isothermal titration calorimetry, surface plasmon resonance, molecular docking
Ruth Griffin Oral vaccine delivery systems, infectious diseases    Gene cloning and protein purification, formulation, in vivo immunogenicity and challenge studies, antibody assays
Kim Hardie Biofilms, antimicrobial resistance, bacteria, pathogenicity, protein secretion       Fluorescent microscopy, infection models, microbiology, protein biochemistry, metabolite detection
John Heap Engineering biology/ synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, biotechnology, biocatalysis, enzyme evolution          Engineering biology/ synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, biotechnology, biocatalysis, enzyme evolution
Stephan Heeb Bacterial infections, virulence, quorum sensing, gene expression, antimicrobial strategies      Bacterial genomics, RNA-Seq, RNA-protein interactions, construction of bacterial vectors
Katalin Kovacs Engineering biology, metabolic engineering, autotrophic microorganisms, bioelectochemical synthesis, circular economy      Molecular biology, microscopy, microbial cultivation, electrofermentation, plastid engineering
Nigel Minton Exploiting autotrophy, reducing carbon emissions, industrial biotechnology, microbial pathogenesis, anaerobes     Synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, gas fermentation, genome editing, therapeutic delivery systems
Ellis O'Neil Natural products, algal biotechnology, biotransformation     Analytical chemistry, mass spectrometry, protein expression and purification, genome mining
Karen Robinson Helicobacter pylori, antimicrobial resistance, infection and immunity, gastric cancer, bacterial virulence       Flow cytometry, real-time PCR, immunohistochemistry, antimicrobial sensitivity testing, immune cell purification and culture
Felicity Rose Biointerfaces; biomaterials; peptide materials; hydrogels; computational material science Surface modification and analysis; polymerisation kinetics; light and enzyme responsive materials; material characterisation
Panos Soultanas DNA replication, DNA repair, replication-metabolism regulation, genome stability Protein expression, purification, polymerase and helicase assays, analytical ultracentrifugation, SPR
Paul Williams Quorum sensing, biofilms, bacteria, biomaterials, antimicrobial agents Bacterial genetics, bacterial culture, antimicrobial assays, quorum sensing assays, microscopy/ imaging
Klaus Winzer Microbial metabolism, biological engineering, synthetic biology, bacterial carbon capture, quorum sensing         Anaerobic microbiology, gas fermentation, genetic modification of bacteria, adaptive laboratory evolution
Ying Zhang Industrial biotechnology, biological engineering, single-carbon utilising bacteria for carbon capture, sustainable bioproducts, biorecovery.    Synthetic biology, bacterial genome editing, metabolic engineering, protein engineering, strain improvement

View our publications

World-class research at the University of Nottingham

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