Professor Robin May MA(Oxon), PhD

Professor Robin May

School of Biosciences
Professor of Infectious Disease

Contact details

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

I am Professor of Infectious Disease at the Institute of Microbiology and Infection. My research centres on human infectious diseases, with a particular focus on how specific pathogens subvert the human immune response.  Currently, I am seconded to the UK Government for three days per week as Chief Scientific Adviser to the Food Standards Agency.


  • MA(Oxon), Biological Sciences
  • PhD (Birmingham), Cell Biology
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology


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.


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.


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.

Other activities

I am currently Treasurer for the UK Microbiology Society and serve on the editorial boards of the journals PLOS Pathogens and Science Advances.


Recent publications


Rizzo, J, Wong, SSW, Gazi, AD, Moyrand, F, Chaze, T, Commere, P-H, Novault, S, Matondo, M, Péhau-Arnaudet, G, Reis, FCG, Vos, M, Alves, LR, May, RC, Nimrichter, L, Rodrigues, ML, Aimanianda, V & Janbon, G 2021, 'Cryptococcus extracellular vesicles properties and their use as vaccine platforms', Journal of Extracellular Vesicles, vol. 10, no. 10, e12129.

Havlikova, J, May, R, Styles, I & Cooper, H 2021, 'Liquid extraction surface analysis mass spectrometry of ESKAPE pathogens', Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry.

Shave, CD, Millyard, L & May, RC 2021, 'Now for something completely different: Prototheca, pathogenic algae', PLoS pathogens, vol. 17, no. 4, e1009362.

Working Group from the Workshop on AIDS-related Mycoses 2020, 'AIDS-Related Mycoses: Updated Progress and Future Priorities', Trends in Microbiology, vol. 28, no. 6, pp. 425-428.

Bürgel, PH, Marina, CL, Saavedra, PHV, Albuquerque, P, de Oliveira, SAM, Veloso Janior, PHDH, de Castro, RA, Heyman, HM, Coelho, C, Cordero, RJB, Casadevall, A, Nosanchuk, JD, Nakayasu, ES, May, RC, Tavares, AH & Bocca, AL 2020, 'Cryptococcus neoformans Secretes Small Molecules That Inhibit IL-1β Inflammasome-Dependent Secretion', Mediators of Inflammation, vol. 2020, pp. 3412763.

Havlikova, J, May, RC, Styles, IB & Cooper, HJ 2020, 'Direct identification of bacterial and human proteins from infected wounds in living 3D skin models', Scientific Reports, vol. 10, no. 1, 11900.

Kocurek, K, Havlikova, J, Buchan, E, Tanner, A, May, R & Cooper, H 2020, 'Electroporation and mass spectrometry: a new paradigm for in situ analysis of intact proteins direct from living yeast colonies', Analytical Chemistry, vol. 92, no. 3, pp. 2605-2611.

Onyishi, CU, Desanti, GE & May, RC 2020, 'Plugging a Leak: How Phagosomes "Stretch" to Accommodate Pathogen Growth', Cell Host & Microbe, vol. 28, no. 6, pp. 774-775.

Silva, VKA, May, RC & Rodrigues, ML 2020, 'Pyrifenox, an ergosterol inhibitor, differentially affects Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii', Medical Mycology, vol. 58, no. 7, pp. 928-937.

Seoane Denicola, P, Taylor-Smith, L, Stirling, D, Bell, LCK, Noursadeghi, M, Bailey, D & May, R 2020, 'Viral infection triggers interferon-induced expulsion of live Cryptococcus neoformans by macrophages', PLoS pathogens, vol. 16, no. 2, e1008240.

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.

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.

Kocurek, K, May, R & Cooper, H 2019, 'Application of high-field asymmetric waveform ion mobility separation to LESA mass spectrometry of bacteria', Analytical Chemistry, vol. 91, no. 7, pp. 4755-4761.

Davies, SP, Reynolds, GM, Wilkinson, AL, Li, X, Rose, R, Leekha, M, Liu, YS, Gandhi, R, Buckroyd, E, Grove, J, Barnes, NM, May, RC, Hubscher, SG, Adams, DH, Huang, Y, Qureshi, O & Stamataki, Z 2019, 'Hepatocytes delete regulatory T cells by enclysis, a CD4+ T cell engulfment process', Cell Reports, vol. 29, no. 6, pp. 1610-1620.e4.

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.

View all publications in research portal


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


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