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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)

  • Fabrizio Alberti (Life Sciences) l My research group works on the discovery of bioactive natural products from fungi and on the study of their biosynthesis, including for the aim of developing new analogues with improved activity. We work with: Matthew Jenner (Chemistry), Chris Corre (Chemistry/Life Sciences), Antonia Sagona (Life Sciences).

  • Lona Alkhalaf (Chemistry) l My research group uses structural biology, synthetic chemistry and enzymology to characterise the molecular targets of bacterial natural product pharmaceuticals and the biosynthetic machinery that assembles them | working with Matt Jenner (Chemistry) and Chris Corre (SLS)

  • 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 and 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).
  • 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)
  • Martin Davey (Medical School) l My lab uses cutting-edge spectral flow cytometry, single cell genomics and immune repertoire sequencing to understand how human T-cells maintain tissue integrity and combat infectious pathogens. We work with Meera Unnikrishnan, John James, Michael Lewis, Aparna Ratheesh, and international collaborators.
  • 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 (Life Sciences) l We study how bacterial pathogens evolve, spread and cause disease by analysing epidemiological and genomic data using 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
  • 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)
  • Seamus Holden (Life Sciences) | We use super-resolution and single molecule microscopy alongside molecular microbiology and bacterial genetics to understand bacterial cell wall remodelling, one of the most important targets​ for antibiotics. We collaborate with David Roper and Phill Stansfeld (Life Sciences) and colleagues in Belfast, Newcastle, Cambridge, Austria and Australia.

  • 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).
  • Jeremy Keown (Life Sciences) l My group is interested in understanding how highly pathogenic RNA viruses replicate inside of infected cells. PhD projects will make extensive use of cryo-electron microscopy and in vitro and in vivo functional assays. Setting up at Warwick in October 2023.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Nicole Robb (Medical School) 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) I My lab studies the mechanisms of bacterial cell wall biosynthesis and cell division as potential targets for next generation antibiotics. We use a range of In-vivo to In-vitro techniques including microbiology, molecular biology, mechanistic enzymology and single particle EM imaging and X-ray crystallography. We work with Phil Stansfeld (Life Sciences/Chemistry), Seamus Holden & Allister Crow (Life Sciences) and Nick Waterfield (Medical School).
  • Antonia Sagona (Life Sciences) | We study how bacteriophages, viruses that specifically target bacteria, can be used as antimicrobials or modified to be used as diagnostics of human infection. We use microscopy, microbiology, phage biology and, through our collaborators, structural biology (Allister Crow and David Roper), advanced chemistry (Matthew Gibson) and bacterial genetics (Yin Chen)
  • 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)
  • Matthew Turner (Physics) | My group develops models to understand infectious disease - including both how humans spontaneously modify their behaviour during disease outbreaks and, secondly, how pathogenic bacteria migrate and chemotax in response to fluid flow. We work with David Roper, Chris Dowson, Corinne & Till Bretschneider.
  • 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)
  • Thomas Walker (Life Sciences) l My research is focused on developing novel mechanisms for the control of mosquito-borne diseases. A major aim is to determine if the endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia can be used to reduce disease transmission | working with Erin Gorsich (Life Sciences)
  • Nick Waterfield (Medical School) l My lab studies the molecular mechanisms employed by bacterial pathogens to achieve virulence in insects and how they evolve to infect humans. We are particularly interested in protein toxins and other antimicrobials from Photorhabdus asymbiotica. We collaborate with Scott (Chemistry), Corre (Life Sciences) and Roper (Life Sciences).

Key Facts

Four-year MSc + PhD fully funded programme

Contact: Tom Hodgekins

Email: mrcdtp at warwick dot ac dot uk