Professor Rick Titball in the lab

Professor Rick Titball in the lab

Professor Richard Titball
Professor of Molecular Microbiology

Research

Research interests

Molecular Biology of bacterial pathogens of humans and animals, with a strong emphasis on research leading to vaccines against infectious disease.

Previously lead research groups which have devised vaccines against plague and anthrax. These vaccines are currently in human clinical trials and should be licensed for use in humans within the next 2-3 years. Also devised vaccines against animal diseases caused by Clostridium perfringens; these vaccines are being developed by industry.

Previously been involved in projects to sequence the genomes of Yersinia pestis (causes plague), Burkholderia pseudomallei (causes melioidosis), Francisella tularensis (causes tularaemia) and Clostridium perfringens (causes gas-gangrene).

Research interests at University of Exeter

1. Understanding how the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei causes disease. B. pseudomallei, the causative agent of the disease melioidosis is an important human pathogen in Southeast Asia and northern Australia. The infection of humans with B. pseudomallei usually occurs via wounds or by the inhalation of organisms. The disease is especially problematic in diabetics. The clinical manifestations of melioidosis are not uniform and patients can present with pneumonia, skin abscesses, soft tissue abscesses or osteomyelitis / septic arthritis. Multi-drug resistance in B. pseudomallei is a significant problem in the treatment of melioidosis, so alternative countermeasures are needed. Furthermore there is no human vaccine currently licensed for protection against melioidosis. The work at Exeter will in the longer term lead to improved treatments for disease.

2. Understanding how the bacterium Clostridium perfringens causes disease. C. perfringens is the causative agent of food poisoning and gas-gangrene in man. Diabetics are especially predisposed to gas gangrene. C. perfringens also causes a range of diseases in domestic livestock such as sheep, lambs, piglets and calves. The ability of the bacterium to cause disease is due to the production of toxins. The work at Exeter will determine how these toxins function ata molecular level and in the longer term lead to improved treatments for disease.

3. Genetic predisposition to disease. This work is not yet fully established, but the aim is to understand why some individuals are more or less susceptible to disease caused by bacteria.

Research Grants

Research funding from Wellcome Trust, BBSRC, Cariplo Foundation, Dstl, US National institutes for Health, US Defence Threat Reduction Agency, EU Marie Curie Network.

Research networks

  • Professor Brendan Wren, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, UK
  • Dr Greg Bancroft, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, UK.
  • Professor Simon Cutting, School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway College, University of London.
  • Dr Katy Brown, CMMI, Imperial College, University of London, UK
  • Dr Sunee Korbsrisate, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand, UK
  • Professor David Moss / Dr Ajit Basak / Dr Claire Naylor, School of Crystallography, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK
  • Professor Nigel Minton, Centre for Biomolecular Sciences School of Molecular Medical SciencesUniversity of Nottigham.UK.
  • Professor Gordon Dougan, Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK.
  • Dr Matt Holden, Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK.
  • Dr Simon Gibbons, Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, The School of Pharmacy, London, WC1N 1AX
  • Dr Phil Felgner, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, University of California, Irvine, USA
  • Dr Patrick Tan, Genome Institute of Singapore, Singapore
  • Professor Mark Estes, University of Texas Medical Branch, Depts. of Pediatrics and Microbiology and Immunology, The Sealy Center for Vaccine Development and Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, Galveston, USA
  • Professor Petra Oyston, Microbiology, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, UK.
  • Dr Jo Prior, Microbiology, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, UK.
  • Dr Melanie Duffield, Microbiology, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, UK.
  • Dr Helen Atkins, Microbiology, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, UK.
  • Professor Ake Forsberg, Umea University, Umea, Sweden
  • Dr Gladys Tan, Defence Science Organisation, Singapore
  • Dr Nick Waterfield, University of Bath, UK.

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