Professor Robin May MA(Oxon), PhD

Professor Robin May

School of Biosciences
Professor of Infectious Disease

Contact details

Address
School of Biosciences and Institute of Microbiology & Infection
The University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

I am Professor of Infectious Disease and Director of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection. My research centres on human infectious diseases, with a particular focus on the molecular basis of host-pathogen interactions

Qualifications

  • MA(Oxon), Biological Sciences
  • PhD (Birmingham), Cell Biology

Biography

I am Professor of Infectious Diseases and Director of the Institute of Microbiology & Infection at the University of Birmingham.  I hold an ERC Consolidator Award and a Wolfson Research Merit Award from the Royal Society.

My early training was in Plant Sciences (University of Oxford) followed by a PhD on mammalian cell biology with Prof. Laura Machesky (University College London & University of Birmingham).  From 2001-2004 I was a Human Frontier Science Program fellow with Prof. Ronald Plasterk at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, working on RNA interference mechanisms.  In 2005 I obtained a Research Council UK Fellowship to establish my own group at the University of Birmingham.  In 2010 I was awarded a Lister Fellowship and in 2013 I was presented with the Colworth Medal of the Biochemical Society.  I currently hold a Consolidator Award from the European Research Council and previously served as a co-director of the NIHR Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre, based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

My research interests focus on host-pathogen interactions and, in particular in understanding how some pathogens are able to subvert the innate immune system.  Much of our work is aimed at improving the treatment or prevention of opportunistic infections in patients with impaired immunity, such as HIV-positive individuals, patients in critical care, or people with long-term immune-compromising conditions.

Teaching

I teach on infectious disease and immunology, recently primarily in the final year module “Human Evolution” and on the MSc programme in Microbiology and Infection

Postgraduate supervision

Robin May’s research focuses on the molecular basis of host-pathogen interactions. His group combines high-resolution microscopy with molecular and genetic approaches to probe the events that underlie establishment and spread of pathogens within the body. He has a particular interest in the innate immune response to fungi and in the evolution of virulence in opportunistic pathogens.

PhD opportunities

Doctoral research

PhD title
Regulation of the actin cytoskeleton.

Research

My group are interested in host-pathogen interactions and, in particular, in understanding how some pathogens are able to subvert the innate immune system.  Most of our work focuses on phagocytic cells, which some microorganisms are able to use as a ‘safe house’ within which to replicate.  We try and understand how such pathogens can survive inside this hostile environment and the effect this intracellular reservoir has on disease progression.

The major focus of our group is on fungal infections, with a particular interest in cryptococcosis.  This potentially fatal disease is caused by two pathogenic species of Cryptococci, Cryptococcus neoformans and C. gattii, which share a remarkable ability to evade the innate immune system and disseminate throughout the body.  This is thought, in large part, to be the result of natural selection through environmental amoebae, since virulence traits that the fungus has evolved to survive within such predators typically work just as effectively within human phagocytes.

Publications

Recent publications

Article

Simm, C & May, RC 2019, 'Zinc and Iron Homeostasis: Target-Based Drug Screening as New Route for Antifungal Drug Development', Frontiers in cellular and infection microbiology, vol. 9, 181. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2019.00181

Probert, M, Zhou, X, Goodall, M, Johnston, S, Bielska, E, Ballou, ER & May, R 2019, 'A glucuronoxylomannan epitope exhibits serotype-specific accessibility and redistributes towards the capsule surface during titanization of the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans', Infection and Immunity, vol. 87, no. 4, e00731. https://doi.org/10.1128/IAI.00731-18

Evans, RJ, Pline, K, Loynes, CA, Needs, S, Aldrovandi, M, Tiefenbach, J, Bielska, E, Rubino, RE, Nicol, CJ, May, RC, Krause, HM, O'Donnell, VB, Renshaw, SA & Johnston, SA 2019, '15-keto-prostaglandin E2 activates host peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR-γ) to promote Cryptococcus neoformans growth during infection', PLoS pathogens, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. e1007597. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1007597

Kocurek, K, May, R & Cooper, H 2019, 'Application of high-field asymmetric waveform ion mobility separation to LESA mass spectrometry of bacteria', Analytical Chemistry. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.analchem.9b00307

Farrer, RA, Ford, CB, Rhodes, J, Delorey, T, May, RC, Fisher, MC, Cloutman-Green, E, Balloux, F & Cuomo, CA 2018, 'Transcriptional heterogeneity of VGII compared with non-VGII lineages underpins key pathogenicity pathways', mSphere, vol. 3, no. 5, e00445-18. https://doi.org/10.1128/mSphere.00445-18

May, RC & Casadevall, A 2018, 'In fungal intracellular pathogenesis, form determines fate', mBio, vol. 9, no. 5, e02092-18. https://doi.org/10.1128/mBio.02092-18

Ropars, J, Voelz, K, May, RC, Maufrais, C, Diogo, D, Marcet-Houben, M, Perin, A, Sertour, N, Mosca, K, Permal, E, Laval, G, Bouchier, C, Ma, L, Schwartz, K, Poulain, J, Battail, C, Wincker, P, Borman, AM, Chowdhary, A, Fan, S, Kim, SH, Le Pape, P, Romeo, O, Shin, JH, Gabaldon, T, Sherlock, G, Bougnoux, M-E & d'Enfert, C 2018, 'Gene flow contributes to diversification of the major fungal pathogen Candida albicans', Nature Communications, vol. 9, 2253. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-04787-4

Dambuza, I, Drake, T, Chapuis, A, Zhou, X, Correia, J, Taylor-Smith, L, LeGrave, N, Rasmussen, T, Fisher, M, Bicanic, T, Harrison, T, Jaspars, M, May, R, Brown, G, Yuecel, R, MacCallum, D & Ballou, ER 2018, 'The Cryptococcus neoformans titan cell is an inducible and regulated morphotype underlying pathogenesis', PLoS pathogens, vol. 14, no. 5, e1006978. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1006978

Lim, J, Coates, CJ, Seoane, PI, Garelnabi, M, Taylor-Smith, LM, Monteith, P, Macleod, CL, Escaron, CJ, Brown, GD, Hall, RA & May, RC 2018, 'Characterizing the Mechanisms of Nonopsonic Uptake of Cryptococci by Macrophages', Journal of Immunology, vol. 200, no. 9, pp. 3539-3546. https://doi.org/10.4049/jimmunol.1700790

Bielska, E, Sisquella, MA, Aldeieg, M, Birch, C, O'Donoghue, EJ & May, RC 2018, 'Pathogen-derived extracellular vesicles mediate virulence in the fatal human pathogen Cryptococcus gattii', Nature Communications, vol. 9, 1556 . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-03991-6

Garelnabi, M & May, R 2018, 'Variability in innate host immune responses to cryptococcosis', Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, vol. 113, no. 7, e180060. https://doi.org/10.1590/0074-02760180060

Garelnabi, M, Bielska, E, May, R, Taylor-Smith, L, Hall, R & Stones, D 2018, 'Quantifying donor-to-donor variation in macrophage responses to the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans', PLoS ONE, vol. 13, no. 3, e0194615. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194615

May, R, Cooper, H, Kocurek, K, Bunch, J & Stones, L 2017, 'Top-down LESA mass spectrometry protein analysis of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria', Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, vol. 28, no. 10, pp. 2066–2077. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13361-017-1718-8

Gilbert, AS, Seoane, PI, Sephton-Clark, P, Bojarczuk, A, Hotham, R, Giurisato, E, Sarhan, AR, Hillen, A, Velde, GV, Gray, NS, Alessi, DR, Cunningham, DL, Tournier, C, Johnston, SA & May, RC 2017, 'Vomocytosis of live pathogens from macrophages is regulated by the atypical MAP kinase ERK5', Science Advances, vol. 3, no. 8, e1700898. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1700898

Editorial

Brown, GD & May, RC 2017, 'Editorial overview: Host-microbe interactions: fungi', Current Opinion in Microbiology, vol. 40, pp. v-vii. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mib.2017.11.026

View all publications in research portal

Expertise

How pathogens infect their hosts and how hosts retaliate; the interaction between human immune cells and a fatal fungal pathogen; the evolution of immunity which we study using a species of microscopic worm.

Alternative contact number available for this expert: contact the press office

Expertise

infection and immunity; fungal infections; pathogens; innate immune systems; opportunistic infections