Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology

Staff Profile

Dr Anjam Khan

Principal Investigator and Director Infectious Diseases Facility

Background

Roles and Responsibilities

 

NUBI – Institute Level:

Academic Lead for Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)

Chair, Microbiological Hazards and Genetic Modification Committee

Member, Executive Board

Member, Safety Committee

 

Faculty Level:

Director, Infectious Diseases Facility (IDF)

Member, Faculty EDI Committee (FEDIC)

 

University Level:

Member, University Biosafety Committee

Member, University EDI-BAME Steering group

 

Qualifications

PhD in Molecular Biology, with Professor John Scaife FRSE, University of Edinburgh

BSc Hons in Biochemistry, University of Manchester, Institute of Science and Technology

 

Previous Positions

University of Cambridge, Postdoctoral Research Associate

University of Newcastle, Lecturer in Microbiology

 


Research

Research Interests

Our major research objectives are to understand the biology of Salmonella and gain insights into the mechanisms by which it causes disease. We are using a multi-disciplinary approach with an international team of collaborators to fulfil these objectives. The group has a broad portfolio of research within the following themes as outlined below, and further details of the research are available upon request.

Quorum Sensing and Host-Pathogen Cross-Talk

Research on quorum sensing has provided vivid insights into the mechanisms by which bacteria coordinate their efforts and behave in a “multicellular” fashion. We are investigating how Salmonella use small signal molecules called autoinducers to communicate with each other, and aim at identifying the genes and physiological processes regulated by quorum sensing. Strikingly, we have revealed inter-kingdom crosstalk between pathogens and their hosts. Thus enabling Salmonella to “eavesdrop” on host communication systems by sensing neuroendocrine stress hormones and using these signals as cues to regulate the expression of genes important in virulence. These neuroendocrine stress hormones such as noradrenaline (norepinephrine) are present at biologically relevant concentrations in the gastrointestinal tract and are used as environmental cues by the pathogen to regulate virulence gene expression. This research is a close multidisciplinary collaboration with Paul Williams, Nottingham University; Mark Jepson, Bristol University.

Understanding the Mechanistic Basis of Competitive Interactions between Salmonella and the Intestinal Microbiota

Bacterial infections are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in humans. The emergence of antimicrobial resistance has exacerbated the impact of these infections making them harder to treat and increasing mortality. Recent advances have revealed the major roles the intestinal microbiome play in health and disease within hosts. Following ingestion, the foodborne pathogen Salmonella faces fierce competition from the resident intestinal microbiota. However, Salmonella species have developed strategies enabling them to outcompete the intestinal microbiota and undergo a rapid growth-burst resulting in disease. We have developed gastrointestinal tract-relevant, in vitro co-culture conditions, and our objectives are to characterise Salmonella-microbiota interactions, identifying the molecular mechanisms mediating growth-bursts and pathogenesis. This research is a close multidisciplinary collaboration with: David Bolam, Newcastle University; Jay Hinton and Heather Allison, Liverpool University, Lindsay Hall, Quadram Institute, Norwich.

Exploiting Synthetic Biology to Engineer Vaccines Against Emerging Pathogens Using Novel Bacterial-Based Delivery Platforms

Emerging pathogens represent a major threat to global health. In the last 20 years we have seen the emergence of the corona virus SARS-CoV-1 in 2003, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in 2012, and very recently Ebola and Zika viruses. Never before in modern times have we seen such a rapid and devastating global pandemic as COVID-19. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2, SARS-CoV-2, is responsible for the disease COVID-19. This pandemic will remain until an effective vaccine which protects against disease is developed. This is not a straight-forward process and we still do not have effective vaccines against malaria, TB, or HIV in spite of huge international efforts over many years.  We are contributing to the development of novel bacterial vaccine platforms against existing bacterial (Shigella-ETEC) and emerging viral pathogens (Ebola virus, Zika virus, and SARS-CoV-2). Salmonella can be genetically manipulated to increase the shedding of outer membrane vesicles (OMVs). Further mutations can be introduced into genes encoding key enzymes to reduce the reactogenicity of OMVs, by modifying lipid A structure. These outer membrane vesicles are naturally immunogenic, and by expressing recombinant antigens from other pathogens within them as cargo, e.g. SARS-CoV-2, they can be exploited to generate vaccines to protect against the novel corona virus. As these vesicles are potently immunogenic and cost-effective to produce, they have great potential as a novel vaccine delivery platform, much needed for our readiness in rapidly dealing with new emerging pathogens. This research is a close multidisciplinary collaboration with: Pietro Mastroeni, Cambridge University; Gary Gobinger, Universite Laval, Canada; Alain Kohl, Glasgow University; Francesca Micolli, GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines;  Robin Shattock, Imperial College London.

Microbial Biofilms and Infection

Implants are an indispensable part of orthopaedics and their use has revolutionised the treatment of patients with fractures and with debilitating diseases like osteoarthritis. The introduction of an implant inside the body is always associated with the risk of microbial infection, as they are foreign bodies inside their hosts and act as a focal point of infection. The human immune system can deal with systemic infection but these implants provide a refuge for bacteria where immune system and systemic antibiotics have a diminished effect. Bacteria often produce multicellular assemblies known as biofilms sometimes referred to as a “city of microbes”. This community of cells are shielded in a self-produced protective extracellular matrix composed of polysaccharides, proteins and eDNA. Biofilm formation represents a highly evolved prokaryotic defence mechanism play an important role in implant associated infections leading to chronic infections untreatable by antibiotics. We have identified novel biofilm dispersing agents and are testing their efficacy against biofilm formation by clinically relevant bacterial species, and investigating their use in the clinical management of posterior joint infections (PJI). This research is a close multidisciplinary collaboration with Grant Burgess, SNES Newcastle University, and Mike Reed Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

 

The Research Group

Postgraduate PhD Students:

Bethany Gollan (BBSRC DTP2 Studentship)

Horeyah Abdalkrim (Royal Saudi Arabian Government PhD Studentship)

John “Jack” Clark-Corrigall (BBSRC DTP3 PhD Studentship)

 

Postdoctoral Research Associates:

Dr Yuming Cai (funded by Heraeus Medical GmbH)

Co-supervised with Prof Grant Burgess in School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, and Prof Mike Reed, Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

 

Faculty Research Fellow:

Hosting and mentoring faculty research fellow James Connolly

 

MD Students:

Dr Puneet Tailor, Orthopaedic Surgeon (Co-supervised with Prof Grant Burgess and Prof Mike Reed)

Dr Prateek Saxena, Orthopaedic Surgeon (Co-supervised with Prof Grant Burgess and Prof Mike Reed)

 

Recent Alumini:

Becky Kildani (Barbour Foundation PhD Studentship) 

David Bulmer (Postdoc, BBSRC, MRC)

Michail Karavolos (Postdoc, BBSRC, MRC)

Sonya Carnell (Postdoc, Italian CF Trust)

Wei Chen (Postdoc, China Scholarship Council)

Nancy Liang (Postdoc, China Scholarship Council)

Anne Doble (MRC PhD Studentship)

Lubna Kharraz (Ford Foundation of America, PhD Studentship)

Hannah Spencer (BBSRC PhD Studentship)

Rerngwit Boonyom (Royal Thai Government Studentship)

 

Other Expertise

Molecular and Cellular Biology of Microbial Pathogens

Competitive Interactions of Pathogens with Microbiota

Vaccine Discovery and Novel Delivery Platforms

Infection and Immunity 

Microbial Biofilms and Infections


Research Roles

Principle Investigator

Director, Infectious Diseases Facility


Postgraduate Supervision

Prospective International students, as well as UK students, with broad interests in Molecular and Cellular Microbiology are particularly encouraged to apply for doctoral degrees (PhD).

 

Esteem Indicators

Member of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Infections and Immunity Board College of Experts (2009-13)

 

Funding

Heraeus Medical (GmbH)

MRC-BBSRC Funded BactiVac Scheme

Medical Research Council (MRC)

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

Wellcome Trust

Newcastle Healthcare and NHS Hospitals Special Trustees Charity 

 

Patents

Four International Patents Awarded in the areas of "Biotechnology, Vaccine Discovery and Delivery"

 


Teaching

Undergraduate teaching include the following modules:

BMS2002: Cell Signalling

MIC2025:  Bacterial Interactions with Human Hosts and

                the Immune System in Human Disease

MIC2027:  Parasitic and Viral Diseases (Module Leader)

MIC3043:  Research in Medical Microbiology and Immunology

MIC3027:  Bacterial Pathogenicity and Disease

MIC3046:  Pathogenic Viruses, Protozoa, and Fungi (Module Leader)

CMB3000: Research Projects 

 

Postgraduate teaching:

PhD Supervisor

PhD Examiner 

Publications