My research interests are principally focused on parasite genetics and parasite interactions with poultry and pathogens of relevance to poultry. I have a special interest in Eimeria, parasites which cause the disease coccidiosis. At present my research funding related to veterinary vaccinology can be divided into four strands.
1. Eimeria genetics
Over the last 12 years I have carried out fundamental and applied genetics-led research with Eimeria, including contributing to the Eimeria genome sequencing consortium. Current research includes field studies of Eimeria population genetics and genetic diversity in Africa, Asia and Europe with relevance to the likely impact of future recombinant vaccines (BBSRC CIDLID BB/H009337) and use of next generation sequencing to investigate Eimeria genome evolution and the impact of drug or vaccine selection (Houghton Trust). I have a longstanding interest in the use of parasite genetics as a tool to identify novel vaccine candidates (including BBSRC grant BB/E01089X and patent application PCT/GB2011/051456).
2. Chicken genetics and response to eimerian infection
In collaboration with Prof Pete Kaiser (Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh) we have recently begun studies to define the genetic basis of resistance and differential vaccine responses to Eimeria in the chicken (BBSRC ARC BB/L004046). Pilot studies have already identified loci of interest associated with differences in parasite rate of replication. This project is supported by both Aviagen and Cobb-Vantress, including provision of pedigree broiler birds for use in QTL mapping.
3. Eimeria transfection
Following development of the first protocols for stable transfection of Eimeria species parasites I have worked in collaboration with Prof Fiona Tomley to develop Eimeria as a novel vaccine delivery vehicle. Current studies include a BBSRC Industry Partnering Award with Merck Animal Health (BB/H020195), working to develop attenuated vaccinal Eimeria lines as transgenic vaccine vectors, and a BBSRC/RVC CASE PhD studentship focused on improving the transfection process.
4. Poultry microbiome diversity
I have recently developed an interest in interactions between Eimeria and the chicken enteric microbiota, investigating the likely impact of Eimeria as a vaccine vector. Targeted studies include interactions between Eimeria tenella and Campylobacter jejuni, now the focus of a BBSRC/RVC DTP PhD studentship. In a broader context I am using metagenomics to define microbial population fluctuations in the presence and absence of Eimeria in Indian poultry (BBSRC/DBT FADH BB/L00478X).