My research interests lie in the combination of functional genomics and bioinformatical analyses to answer complex biological questions. My research at Moredun aims to exploit these tools to interrogate the host:pathogen interaction across multiple disease models, including sheep scab, which is caused by infestation of the skin by the ectoparasitic mite Psoroptes ovis. My research focuses on three main areas:
1. Use of transcriptomics to better understand the mechanisms underlying the host cutaneous and systemic inflammatory responses to infestation. Combining network and systems biology approaches to elucidate signalling pathways and gene networks involved to identify new methods of intervention and novel diagnostic/therapeutic biomarkers.
2. Microarray and next generation sequencing analysis of P. ovis during the initial stages of parasitism along with individual life cycle stage analysis – enabling discovery of novel vaccine targets and diagnostic antigens for disease control.
3. Comparative genomic and transcriptomic analyses of parasitic and non-parasitic mites with an emphasis on the prediction of virulence and pathogenicity factors, determinants of host-specificity and ultimately novel diagnostic and vaccine candidates.
My group is also currently developing a recombinant (sub-unit) vaccine for the control of sheep scab, funded by Defra. This vaccine was developed using a reverse vaccinology approach based on the analyses described above.
Other research interests pursued through collaborative studies are focused on parasite developmental biology, understanding the biology and physiology of the poultry red mite through transcriptomic and gene network analysis.