Microbial Genomics and Microbiomes

scientist with test tubes

Using high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies, we are mapping the diversity of pathogens and elucidating the role of microbiomes in health and disease

Aims of the research

The IMI has long been at the very forefront of research into the use of advanced DNA sequencing technologies to characterise the diversity of microbial life. Our work ranges from the genomic epidemiology of infectious agents, to evolutionary genomics of pathogens, and in-field detection of outbreak agents using portable genome sequencing technology. In addition, IMI is using DNA sequencing to profile the microbial ecosystems (‘microbiomes’) associated with plants and humans. We combine these microbiome studies with experimental approaches to assign functions to microbes and genes in microbiomes. We are thus uncovering the mechanisms and contributions of microbes to health and disease.

IMI researchers have used genomics to generate important insights into the evolution of important antibiotic-resistant pathogens. These techniques were also used during COVID-19 pandemic to identify and map the spread of novel variants of SARS-CoV-2. We are continuously developing and implementing novel technologies, like long-read Nanopore sequencing, and computational tools in genomics. In addition, we use high-throughput functional genomics approaches to identify the function of genes in important antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

The research of IMI in the human microbiome benefits from access to these technologies, and builds on close collaborations with clinical partners across campus and the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS trust. Collectively, we strive to gain knowledge how microbes can contribute to disease and well-being, including mental health. IMI is a key partner in the Microbiome Treatment Centre, the first clinically accredited provider of faecal microbiome transplants (FMT) in the UK, and the cornerstone of research projects on topics such as FMT clearance of C. difficile and inflammatory bowel disease. In addition, through links with the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR), we are gaining a better understanding of plant diseases and how we can prevent bacteria and fungi to infect and kill important crops and trees.

Principal Investigators