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I am a molecular biologist / biochemist / biotechnologist / microbiologist. My research has emphasis on technological innovations that will find their ultimate applications in medicine, veterinary science, agriculture and mitigation of greenhouse gas emission.
Expertise credentials / areas:
focus on probiotic bacteria and rumen microbial community
See also my profile at Google Citations: http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=N6BHLWoAAAAJ
The central theme of my research programme is biology of bacterial viruses (bacteriophages or phages) and their biotechnology applications in medicine and agriculture. Phage display and other methods are used in my research programme to study protein-protein interactions in cell-signalling and host-bacterial interactions. My key research activities are:
Phage display technology, agricultural and medical applications
By changing the shape and size of the bacteriophage, and eliminating the phage genes, we have produced a novel type of functionalised biological nanoparticle, thereby harnessing phages for applications in vaccine development, diagnostics and tissue targeting.
Through mastering bacteriophage biology, my laboratory has developed a new technology to identify, among thousands of bacterial proteins, those that have specific functions of interest. Using this approach, we have discovered unique surface proteins in probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 (commercial name DR20) that may be involved in bacterial association with host cells. This methodology has now been extended to the whole microbial community, representing a novel approach to understand key agricultural and environmental processes such as forage digestion and methane emission (in collaboration with AgResearch).
The study of unusual "secreted" phages of E. coli has led to characterisation of a gigantic gated filamentous phage- and toxin-secreting channel in E. coli and hospital-acquired pathogen Klebsiella. Manipulation of the channel gate or valve renders Gram-negative pathogenic bacteria sensitive to widely used antibiotics, the fact that can be utilized to overcome antibiotic resistance.
Cheese fermentation and dairy bacteriophages
Work on dairy phages has had impact on cheese-making industry. It has helped in building an argument against strain rotation as a practice for avoidance of fermentation failure.
Mentoring a new generation of scientists
During my tenure at Massey University (2003-2013) I have supervised to completion:
4 PhD students
7 MSc students
3 BScHons students
1 PgDip student
All four PhD graduates are now successful emerging scientists, two leading their own research programmes in New Zealand and USA.
Project Title: PSAF: System for production of protein-DNA nanorods
Date Range: 2016 - 2019
Funding Bodies: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment; Massey Ventures Ltd
Project Title: Overcoming antibiotic resistance
Date Range: 2012 - ongoing
Funding Bodies: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment; Massey Ventures Ltd; Massey University