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Infectious disease

Antibiotic resistance, bacterial pathogenicity and population genetics are our three major (often interlocking) areas of research into a range of human and animal pathogens. Understanding the molecular basis for the evolution of antibiotic resistance and virulence will help to predict how novel targets will respond to the selective pressures imposed by new chemotherapeutic agents or vaccination.

Professor Chris G Dowson (School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick, UK) has, for many years, examined the emergence and evolution of antibiotic resistance across a wide range of bacteria. His recent focus has been to better understand how penicillin targets bacteria. This began during his postdoctoral time at the University of Sussex, in the laboratory of Professor Spratt (1986-1990) and subsequently with his Lister Institute Centenary Fellowship (1991-1996). He currently holds a personal chair at Warwick University and is a recent past member of the Medical Research Council Infections and Immunity Board. He has established the Warwick Antimicrobial Interdisciplinary Centre (WAMIC), the location of the Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC) Laboratory facility at Warwick and has been involved with philanthropic research fundraising regionally across Warwickshire for the past 16 years with the Medical and Life Sciences Research Fund (MLSRFLink opens in a new window) and the national antibiotic discovery charity Antibiotic Research UK (ANTRUK)Link opens in a new window where he is a Trustee and Chair of the Scientific Committee.

Chris’ research is funded by BBSRC, EPSRC, MRC, Wellcome Trust and industry. It is highly collaborative, involving teams of biologists, chemists, engineers and physicists across universities in the UK (£3.2M SWON AllianceLink opens in a new window), CA, CHN ( £1M Accelerate CHNUKLink opens in a new window and recently £3M Integrate CHNUK ), US, SA (H3DLink opens in a new window), EU, AUS to help drive innovations from this research forward to a commercial outcome, which includes the use of high throughput structural determination using the XChem Link opens in a new windowplatform at Diamond Light source and virtual reality to visualize antibiotic: target protein interactions. Industry partners past and present include AstraZeneca, Basilea, Bicycle Tx, Cubist, Merck, Novartis, Novobiotic, GSK and supported in AMR SME engagement with the Medicines Discovery Catapult (£1M investment MDCLink opens in a new window) at Warwick and the increasingly successful Antimicrobial Screening Facility at Warwick.

Abstract for current research:

The development of new reagents and new assays are crucial underpinning technologies enabling a multi-target focus to antibiotic discovery, with priorities in peptidoglycan biosynthesis and protein biosynthesis (aminoacyl tRNA synthetases, aaRS). The focus of his research is peptidoglycan biosynthesis as an enduringly attractive target or antibiotic discovery, including the multi-targeting of penicillin-binding proteins and Mur ligases.

Population genetics underpins our understanding of the spatial and temporal structure of bacterial populations, as well as phylogenetic relationships and rates of evolution. All of these are key issues if we are to understand the epidemiology of resistance or virulence within a population, and all the more if we want to identify stable targets for vaccination or chemotherapy, or identify important strains of bacteria associated with the disease.

Chris G Dowson

Outreach and impact activities:

  • Antibiotic resistance and drug discovery video link

Technical and Research Support

Anita Catherwood
Julie Tod
John Moat - Director Warwick AMR screening facility
Dr Abby Henney - Warwick AMR Screening facility

PhD Students

Daniella Sordillo
Becca Steventon
Jonny Burnett
Jonny Whiteside

Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr Laura Diaz
Dr Amanda Day Dowson
Dr Hector Newman
Dr Koorosh Fatemian

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Adrian Lloyd

Funding and Support Sources Past and Present

Research Councils

Newton Fund MRC / NSFC




Micropathology Ltd
Unilever UK
Sarissa Ltd
Millenium Inc.
Astra Zeneca

Regional Development Agency

Advantage West Midlands: Birmingham Science City

Charities and Philanthropy

Coventry General Charities
Antibiotic Research UK


Academic UK

Harwell Diamond Light Source - Dr Martin Walsh, Prof Frank Von Delft, Dr Catherine McAuley
Rosalind Franklin Institute- Prof Jim Naismith
Oxford University - Prof Chris Schofield
Birmingham University - Prof Del Besra, Dr Luke Alderwick
Heartlands Hospital - Dr David Honeybourne
Leeds University - Prof Colin Fishwick, Prof Steve Evans, Dr Andrea Nelson
Sheffield University - Prof Simon Foster
Sussex University - Prof Gerry Bloom Dr Michael Hopkins Dr Lewis Hussain
Newcastle University - Prof Waldemar Vollmer
Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre - Dr Steve Bentley
University of Liverpool - Prof Aras Kadioglu
UCL, Chemistry - Prof Matt Tod

University of Warwick

Dept of Engineering - Professor Julian Gardner, Dr Mike Chappell, Dr Neil Evans
Dept of Chemistry - Professor Peter Sadler, Professor Mark Rodger, Professor Tim Bugg, Dr Jozef Lewandowski, Dr Andy Marsh, Dr David Fox, Dr Chris Corre
Department of Physics - Professor Rudo Roemer, Professor Stephen Brown
School of Life Sciences - Prof David Roper, Dr Allister Crow

Academic overseas

Laval University, Quebec - Prof Roger Levesque
McMaster - Hamilton - Prof Eric Brown, Prof Lori Burrows
MLW Blantyre Malawi -Dean Everett
UBC Vancouver - Prof Natalie Strydnaka
University of Guelph - Prof Anthony Clarke
Monash University - Dr Sheena McGowan and Dr Ashley Buckle
CAS Shanghai Materia Medica - Prof Jianmin Yue, Prof Ciaguang Yang, Prof Lefan Lu
SSRF Shanghai Synchrotron- Jianhua He
Xiamen University - Dr Aidong Han
UCT H3D South Africa - Prof Kelly Chibale
NorthEastern University, Boston - Prof Lori Ferrins


Micropathology Ltd
Astra Zeneca, Basilea, Cubist
Severn Trent
Bicycle Therapeutics Ltd.