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Combating Infection


Combating Infection studentships offer the opportunity of PhD research into the ways in pathogenic bacteria and viruses emerge, evolve and spread, deploy the structures and strategies needed for survival within host cells and tissues and how these vary across populations with the emergence of anti-microbial resistance (AMR). Jointly supervised by internationally leading experts from biomedicine, engineering and the physical sciences, this programme will enable you to integrate molecular, quantitative and analytical approaches to undertake important new discovery science and applied translational projects aimed at combating infection.

Project supervisors (listed alphabetically)

  • Munehiro Asally (Life Sciences) l We are interested in the collective dynamics of bacterial colonies (biofilms, swarming) and the effect this has on anti-microbial resistance. See our recent paper in eLife. I work with: Marco Polin (Physics), Vasily Kantsler (Physics) and Sara Kalvala (Computer Science).
  • Tim Bugg (Chemistry) l My research group works on enzymology, including enzymes on the bacterial peptidoglycan biosynthesis pathway, currently focussing on identiying novel inhibitors of MraY-protein E interaction as new anti-bacterial agents. I work with: Jozef Lewandowski (Chemistry), Matthew Jenner (Chemistry).
  • Greg Challis (Chemistry) l We employ microbiology, molecular genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, enzymology, structural biology, analytical chemistry and organic synthesis to discover and engineer novel antimicrobials with enhanced therapeutic potential. We work with: Jozef Lewandowski (Chemistry), Matthew Jenner (Chemistry).
  • Yin Chen (Life Sciences) My research focuses on understanding bacterial membrane lipids diversity and lipid remodelling in bacterial pathogenesis and host-pathogen interactions using a synthesis of molecular genetics, biochemistry, structural biology and multilayer genomics and proteomics. I work with: Dave Scanlan (Life Sciences) and Meera Unnikrishnan (WMS)
  • Erin Connelly (Life Sciences) l We are interested in antimicrobial discovery from natural products inspired by ingredients from historical medical recipes. We work closely with Freya Harrison (Life Sciences)
  • Allister Crow (Life Sciences) l We use structural biology and molecular techniques to study bacterial cell division and antibiotic resistance. PhD projects will focus on the structure and function of protein complexes in the cell envelope. We work closely with: Phillip Stansfeld (Life Sciences)
  • Marcio Dias (Chemistry) l We are interested in fragment-based drug discovery (FBDD) and drug repurposing for the treatment of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. We work with: Liz Fullam (Life Sciences) and Manuela Tosin (Chemistry).
  • Xavier Didelot l We study how bacterial pathogens evolve, spread and cause disease by analysing epidemiological and genomic data using new bioinformatics and statistical methods to handle very large datasets from novel high-throughput sequencing techniques. We collaborate with the HPRU in Genomics and Enabling Data
  • Christopher Dowson (Life Sciences) l We develop new reagents and assays for antibiotic discovery by understanding and targeting peptidoglycan biosynthesis and protein biosynthesis (aminoacyl tRNA synthetases, aaRS). We work closely with Jozef Lewandowski (Chemistry) and Peter Sadler (Chemistry)
  • Elizabeth Fullam (Life Sciences) l Utilising a multidisciplinary approach to understand nutrient uptake and metabolism in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. l see: Fullam et al, Open Biology, 2016 l working with: Matthew Gibson (Chemistry), Alison Rodger (Chemistry).
  • Freya Harrison (Life Sciences) | We build models of biofilm infection to understand why bacteria can form long-lived, antibiotic-resistant infections in different host sites including cystic fibrosis lungs, chronic wounds & ventilator tubing and to test new antibiotics, including natural products derived from historical infection remedies. Working with Sebastien Perrier (Chemistry) and Meera Unnikrishnan (Medical School)
  • John James (Medical School) l My group uses optogenetic and chemical biological methods to understand how our immune cells are capable of discriminating between healthy and infected cells at the molecular level. We work with Karuna Sampath (Medical School) who uses Zebrafish as a model system.
  • Matthew Jenner (Chemistry) | Mapping protein-protein interactions in biosynthetic systems responsible for antibiotic production using structural mass spectrometry. | See: Jenner et al. 2018. Nat. Chem. Biol., 14, 270-275. | Working with Jozef Lewandowski (Chemistry), Greg Challis (Chemistry).
  • Jozef Lewandowski (Chemistry) l We use NMR-led integrated structural biology and rational engineering of systems involved in natural products biosynthesis including new antibiotics Working with Matthew Jenner (Chemistry) & Greg Challis (Chemistry).
  • Andrew Marsh (Chemistry) l We use a combination of informatics and phenotypic screens to optimise small molecule inhibitors of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other respiratory viruses in collaboration with Phillip Gould (Coventry University).
  • Bridget Penman (Life Sciences) l We use co-evolutionary theory to understand how human genetics affects infectious disease severity. Studies the genetics of malaria resistance, and HLA and KIR genetics. l Penman et al PNAS 2013, PMID 24225852.
  • Marco Polin (Physics) l Uses experimental and theoretical tools from physics to advance our understanding of the biology of microorganisms. l working with: Meera Unnikrishnan (Medical School) and Munehiro Assally (Life Sciences).
  • Nicole Robb (WMS) l An interdisciplinary approach to understanding how viruses replicate and development of rapid optical viral diagnostic tests l See: Robb et al., Scientific Reports, 2019. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-52759-5Link opens in a new window
  • Rudo Roemer (Physics) l Research interests in protein rigidity and flexibility as applied to structure and function relations in systems/problems such as SARS-COV2 spike protein. HIV protease and proteins involved in AMR l working with: Nicole Robb (Medical School) and Munehiro Assally (Life Sciences)
  • David Roper (Life Sciences) | We study the enzymes and pathways required for bacterial cell wall biosynthesis and cell division for the identification of new antimicrobial compounds. Working with Phil Stansfeld (Life Sciences), Nick Waterfield (Medical School), Filippo Mancia & Jonathan Dworkin (Columbia University NYC)
  • Phill StansfeldLink opens in a new window (Life Sciences) | We use structural bioinformatics and molecular dynamics simulations to investigate the dynamic 3D structures of bacterial membrane proteins to identify new druggable targets for killing drug-resistant, pathogenic bacteria. We work closely with working with: David Roper (Life Sciences) and Alistair Crow (Life Sciences).
  • Craig Thompson (Medical School) | We study how viruses evolve to evade immunity, their pandemic potential and disease severity using computational methodologies, such as structural bioinformatics and phylogenetics and lab-based techniques such as serology, biochemistry, molecular biology and synthetic virology to develop vaccines to combat them. We work closely with Nicole Robb (Medical School).

  • Manuela Tosin (Chemistry) | Natural products are an invaluable source of therapeutic agents for the treatment of human disease. We uses synthetic chemistry and genome engineering in engineering of bacteria and plants to produce new and more effective antibiotics, anticancer agents and inhibitors of virulence. We work with: Christopher Corre (Life Sciences/Chemistry), Jozef Lewandowski (Chemistry) and Alex Cameron (Life Sciences)
  • Meera Unnikrishnan (Medical School) | Our group is interested in understanding how bacterial pathogens interact with the host during infection and, in particular, how the Type VII secretion systems of the antimicrobial resistant pathogen Staphylococcus aureus manipulates immune cells during infection | working with: Avinash Shenoy (Imperial), Sebastien Perrier (Chemistry) and Freya Harrison (Life Sciences)
  • Nick Waterfield (Medical School) l My lab is re-purposing a bacterial protein toxin, the Photorhabdus Virulence Cassette (PVC), as an extracellular contractile injection system for targeted drug delivery of therapeutic proteins and peptides | working in partnership with NanoSyrinx Ltd, Sam Dean (Medical School) and John James (Medical School).

Key Facts

Four-year MSc + PhD fully funded programme

Contact: Sally Blakeman

Email: mrcdtp at warwick dot ac dot uk

Telephone: 024 7652 3913