Our research

body-our-researchResearch within the Institute is diverse, encompassing fundamental science of model organisms to the biochemical and biophysical analysis of microbial components to transnational research on key pathogens of medical and veterinary importance. 

A primary focus of research within IMI  is combatting the global threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). By taking a multi-disciplinary approach involving genomics, bacterial genetics, molecular microbiology, structural biology and mathematical modelling our aim is to tackle significant global health-care challenges such as tuberculosis, pnuemonia, fungal pathogens, gastrointestinal infection, blood stream infections, and health-care associated infections. This work is supported by a Wellcome trust PhD studentship program funding cutting edge AMR research in collaboration with The University of Nottingham.

Antimicrobial Resistance

 Antimicrobial resistance research in the IMI encompasses a broad range of approaches to combat the global threat of antimicrobial resistant bacteria. Research encompasses a wide range of pathogens including Escherichia coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter, respiratory pathogens including Streptococcus pneumoniae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis and nosocomial pathogens including Acinetobacter and Staphylococcus aureus. The research conducted is also multi-factorial and focuses on areas such as understanding the evolution of antibiotic resistance and transmission routes and dynamics of resistance as well as the study of membrane proteins in terms of resistance and the development of novel therapeutics.

Research groups

Key Staff

  • Laura Piddock, Professor of Microbiology, Institute of Microbiology and Infection
  • Edward Bevan, Clinical Lecturer, Institute of Microbiology and Infection
  • Jessica Blair, BBSRC David Phillips Fellow, Institute of Microbiology and Infection
  • Michelle Buckner, Research Fellow, Institute of Microbiology and Infection
  • Paco Fernandez-Trillo, John Evans Fellow in Nanotechnology, Chemistry
  • Katie Hardy, Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy
  • Peter Hawkey, Professor of Clinical and Public Health Bacteriology, Institute of Microbiology and Infection
  • Jan-Ulrich Kreft, Lecturer in Computational Biology, School of Biosciences
  • Matt O'Shea, Honorary Clinical Lecturer, Institute of Microbiology and Infection
  • Chris Thomas, Professor of Molecular Genetics, School of Biosciences

Fungal Pathogens

Research into fungal pathogens in the IMI focuses on the molecular basis of host-pathogen interactions. Research combines high-resolution microscopy with molecular and genetic approaches to probe the events that underlie establishment and spread of infective agents; primarily the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans, but also the invasive zygomycete fungi. Research focuses on combining cellular and whole-organism based approaches to study the interaction between cells of the mammalian immune system (primarily macrophages) and several pathogens. We are particularly interested in understanding how some organisms can survive, replicate and eventually escape from within macrophages.

Key Staff

  • Robin May, Lister Fellow & Professor of Infectious Disease, School of Biosciences
  • Becky Hall, MRC CDA Fellow, School of Biosciences
  • Kerstin Voelz, Lecturer in Eukaryotic Microbiology, School of Biosciences

Genome Dynamics and Gene Regulation

A large body of work exists in the IMI studying genome architecture of bacteria and mechanisms of bacterial gene regulation. This ranges from studying the regulation of transcription initiation in pathogenic Escherichia coli, to understanding mechanisms of DNA folding in bacteria and how this process impinges upon gene expression, DNA replication and pathogenicity, to research that uncovers regulatory networks of genes responding to individual or combinations of stresses.

Key Staff

  • Steve Busby, Professor of Biochemistry, School of Biosciences
  • Saverio Brogna, Senior Lecturer in RNA biology, School of Biosciences
  • Doug Browning, Senior Research Fellow, School of Biosciences
  • Jeff Cole, Emeritus Professor of Microbiology, School of Biosciences
  • Dave Grainger, Reader in Molecular Microbiology, School of Biosciences
  • Pete Lund, Reader in Molecular Microbiology, School of Biosciences
  • Matthias Soller, Lecturer, School of Biosciences

Genomics

Microbial genomics underpins much of the research performed in the IMI, underpinned by the BBSRC funded MicrobesNG facility. Fundamental microbial genomics research is also performed to elucidate evolutionary genomics of pathogenesis and antimicrobial resistance in bacterial pathogens, and explores the use of cutting-edge genomics and metagenomics approaches to the diagnosis, treatment and surveillance of infectious disease.

Key Staff

  • Nicholas Loman, MRC Research Fellow, School of Biosciences
  • Alan McNally, Senior Lecturer in Microbial Genomics, Institute of Microbiology and Infection

Host-Pathogen Interactions

A substantial amount of the research performed at IMI concerns the investigation of the pathogenesis of bacterial infectious diseases. The molecular study of these processes can be used to design or modify vaccines and improve therapeutic approaches. Pathogens produce numerous factors that interact with the host during pathogenesis, including capsules, enzymes and toxins. IMI research focuses on investigating this interaction by genetic manipulation of the pathogen and the host. Research also focuses on the how immune responses develop to vaccines and infection and how they impact on host immune homeostasis.

Key Staff

  • Ian Henderson, Professor of Microbial Biology, Institute of Microbiology and Infection
  • Adam Cunningham, Professor of Functional Immunity, Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy
  • Rhys Grinter, Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Microbiology and Infection
  • Becky Hall, MRC CDA Fellow, School of Biosciences
  • Nicholas Jones, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy
  • Sarah Kuehne, Lecturer in Oral Microbiology, Institute of Clinical Sciences
  • Pete Lund, Reader in Molecular Microbiology, School of Biosciences
  • Robin May, Lister Fellow & Professor of Infectious Disease, School of Biosciences
  • Andrea Mitchell, Research Fellow, Institute of Microbiology and Infection
  • Tim Mitchell, Professor of Microbial Infection and Immunity, Institute of Microbiology and Infection
  • Tim Overton, Senior Lecturer, Chemical Engineering
  • Amanda Rossiter, Sir Henry Wellcome Fellow, Institute of Microbiology and Infection
  • Kerstin Voelz, Lecturer in Eukaryotic Microbiology, School of Biosciences
  • Steve Watson, BHF Professor in Cardiovascular Sciences and Cellular Pharmacology, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences

Modelling

The IMI also uses mathematical modelling approaches to understand bacteria. Research focuses on the modelling of gene regulation networks using both numerical and analytical approaches spanning a range of biological applications, from drug development to bioenergy to understanding bacterial behaviour. Research also uses mathematical modelling approaches to understand spatial heterogeneity of microbes and how this affects the dissemination of antimicrobial resistance in the environment.

Key Staff

Structural Biology

Structural biology is used as a wide term to describe the large amount of microbial biochemistry, microbial surface, and protein structure work performed at IMI to greater understand bacterial processes. Research ranges from understanding outer membrane biogenesis and peptidoglycan metabolism, studying the bacterial cell surface to uncover a rich source of molecules which can be utilized and adapted to treat or prevent infections, to utilising structural biology (and related techniques) to investigate protein function, to the transport of proteins across the cytoplasmic membrane by the Sec machinery in bacteria, protein folding, and the connection between folding and transport.

Key Staff

  • Ian Henderson, Professor of Microbial Biology, Institute of Microbiology and Infection
  • Tim Dafforn, Professor of Biotechnology, School of Biosciences
  • Klaus Futterer, Reader in Structural Biology, School of Biosciences
  • Damon Huber, Birmingham Fellow, School of Biosciences
  • Eva Hyde, Senior lecturer, School of Biosciences
  • Tim Knowles, Lecturer in Biophysics, School of Biosciences
  • Andy Lovering, Senior Lecturer, School of Biosciences
  • Patrick Moynihan, BBSRC Future Leader Fellow, School of Biosciences
  • Tim Overton, Senior Lecturer, Chemical Engineering
  • Scott White, Reader in Structural Biology, School of Biosciences

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis at the IMI involves world-leading multidisciplinary research investigating key aspects of the microbial physiology of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis cell wall.  Research also includes studying pathogenic mycobacteria and how they cause disease. This includes using a genetic approach to identify pathways involved in the biosynthesis of virulence-related metabolites. Research also aims to understand the dynamics of peptidoglycan metabolism in M. tuberculosis to develop new therapeutic targets for the treatment of tuberculosis.

Key Staff

  • Gurdyal Besra, Bardrick Professor of Microbial Physiology and Chemistry, School of Biosciences
  • Luke Alderwick, Lecturer, School of Biosciences
  • Apoorva Bhatt, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology, School of Biosciences
  • Dave Minnikin, Emeritus Professor of Microbial Chemistry, School of Biosciences
  • Patrick Moynihan, BBSRC Future Leader Fellow, School of Biosciences