I completed my PhD at Imperial College London studying the biological functions of Streptococcus pyogenes superantigens. I was awarded an American Heart Association post-doctoral fellowship to investigate the mechanisms of host modulation by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi at Harvard University, Boston. In a second postdoctoral fellowship, also at Harvard, I studied Mycobacterium tuberculosis pathogenesis, focusing on the specialized type VII secretion systems. My studies showed that one of the type VII systems, ESX-3 is involved in iron uptake and virulence in mycobacteria. In 2009, I joined Novartis Vaccines, Italy, as a Senior Scientist where her group investigated the functions of vaccine candidates from Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile. Key studies my group initiated here included investigation of the role of S. aureus type VII systems in mediating host-pathogen interactions and understanding mechanisms by which secreted C. difficile proteins mediate colonisation. I joined the University of Warwick as Assistant Professor of Molecular Bacteriology in 2013.
Generally, I am interested in understanding the human intestinal microbiota in health and in disease. My research at Warwick Medical School focuses on understanding host-pathogen interaction in C. difficile using cellular models of infection. This involves the prolonged infection of C. difficile with human epithelial cells to determine adhesion and performing confocal microscopy and other assays necessary to understand this pathogen.
My PhD was awarded by the University of Cambridge with the research performed primarily at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. My PhD project involved the development of a bacteriotherapy for the treatment of severe Clostridium difficile disease. Knowing the bacterial species that can confer colonization resistance against C. difficile is important, as a major cause of this disease, is antibiotic disruption of the intestinal microbiota. Other areas of interest include antimicrobial resistance and phages.
After a postgraduate training in Biology at the University of Yaoundé I (Cameroon), I was selected by the Pasteur Centre in Cameroon for a paid internship in Molecular Microbiology under the guidance of Dr Antoinette Ngandjio. The successful completion of that internship was reflected by a very good master’s thesis, and hands-on in molecular biology techniques that enabled me to earn a living in lab and clinical settings (2009 – 2011). Thereafter, as a DAAD-funded scholar, I moved to the University of Konstanz (Germany) to undertake PhD training in Cellular Microbiology in the lab of Prof Christof Hauck. Here, my collaborative efforts with Dr Sabine Lichtenegger and Prof Joachim Reidl (University of Graz, Austria) unveiled the outer membrane protein P1 as a hitherto unrecognized virulence factor of Haemophilus influenzae. Currently, I am working as Research Fellow in the Unnikrishnan lab studying the contribution of staphylococcal type VII secretion system in host-pathogen crosstalk. For this, molecular biology, confocal microscopy, cellular microbiology and flow cytometry – to name the few – are being combined in order to gain unprecedented insight into type VII function.
I studied for a BSc. (Hons) in Genetics at the University of the West of England (Bristol) between 2008 and 2011. I completed my final year project working on the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae in the laboratory of Dr Dawn Arnold, gaining a second author publication from his work. After briefly leaving science to pursue a career in teaching, I am now completing his PhD, studying the role of the enzyme LuxS during biofilm development of Clostridioides difficile.
I am an active member of the Synthetic Biology CDT program, through which I joined the Unnikrishnan lab. The goal of my PhD is to engineer a representative synthetic gut community, which can be used alongside human cells. I will develop a co-culture of 15-20 commonly found gut bacteria, with species-specific monitoring and quantification techniques. With aims to introduce this community alongside human cells in microfluidic systems, and study the effect of human microbiome and cell interactions, as well as the implication on opportunistic pathogen invasion (C. difficile).
Before joining the lab, I worked as a research assistant; engineering synthetic bacteriophages using bioreactor based directed evolution. Prior to this I did my Master’s in Systems Biology at the University of Warwick (For more information please see: http://www.dtc.ox.ac.uk/people/15/hassallj/).