Meet the team

Schoool of Life Sciences, University of Warwik. Photograph by Katie Neeves of Martin Neeves Photography & Film – – Tel: +44 (0)7973 638591 – E-mail:

Dr Meera Unnikrishnan

Associate Professor

I completed my PhD at Imperial College London studying the biological functions ofStreptococcus pyogenes superantigens. I was awarded an American Heart Association post-doctoral fellowship to investigate the mechanisms of host modulation by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi at Harvard University, Boston. In a second postdoctoral fellowship, also at Harvard, I studied Mycobacterium tuberculosis pathogenesis, focusing on the specialized type VII secretion systems. My studies showed that one of the type VII systems, ESX-3 is involved in iron uptake and virulence in mycobacteria. In 2009, I joined Novartis Vaccines, Italy, as a Senior Scientist where her group investigated the functions of vaccine candidates from Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile. Key studies my group initiated here included investigation of the role of S. aureus type VII systems in mediating host-pathogen interactions and understanding mechanisms by which secreted C. difficile proteins mediate colonisation. I joined the University of Warwick as Assistant Professor of Molecular Bacteriology in 2013.

Kate Watkins

PhD Candidate – MRC DTP

I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Bath, during which I undertook an industrial placement as a Respiratory Clinical Scientist at GSK Stevenage. I then joined the Warwick University MRC DTP and completed a Masters in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Science before starting my PhD in the Unnikrishnan lab. My PhD project involves investigating the behaviours of S. aureus with mutant VII secretion systems within macrophages using both in vitro and in vivo infection models. I am also using physics and engineering-based approaches in collaboration with Dr. Marco Polin (Physics) to develop a microfluidic human lung mimic for the purpose of studying S. aureus persistent infection in physiologically relevant conditions.

Lucy Frost

PhD Candidate – MIBTP

I graduated from the University of Exeter in 2016 with a BSc. (Hons) in Biochemistry. I am now studying for a PhD in molecular microbiology in the Unnikrishnan group, focusing on a project titled ‘Dissecting host-pathogen interactions of Clostridium difficile’. Colonisation of the gut is a key determinant of disease outcome, although little is known about bacterial or host factors modulating interactions between C. difficile and the gut epithelium. Therefore, the aim of this project is to identify proteins and pathways which are required for host-pathogen interactions. Identification and functional analysis of proteins critical to C. difficile colonisation will enhance our understanding of clostridial pathogenesis and may lead to new interventions for CDI.

Jeff Cheng

PhD Candidate – MIBTP

I graduated from the University of Leicester with both a BSc (Hons) in Medical Microbiology and MSc in Infection and Immunity. I am current a part of the MIBTP DTP at the University of Warwick, investigating the molecular mechanisms in Clostridioides difficile colonisation. I am generating a comprehensive transposon mutant library to elucidate proteins involved in adhesion and colonisation. My interests also include the Galleria infection model and phage therapy.

Giridhar Chandrasekharan

PhD Candidate – International Chancellor’s Fellow

I joined the Unnikrishnan lab as a PhD student, after receiving the Chancellor’s International fellowship. I completed my BSc degree (Biotechnology, Chemistry and Botany) in Christ University, Bengaluru, India and my MSc degree in Microbiology at St Joseph’s College, Bengaluru, India. After working for a year as a Project assistant in Dipshikha Chakravortty’s Lab in Indian Institute of Science; my interest in host-microbe interaction strengthened. I am currently working on elucidating the probable interacting partners of Type VII section system factors of Staphylococcus aureus in epithelial cells. And also to understand the role of EsxD of S. aureus in pathogenesis and infection.

Vicky Smith

PhD Candidate – MIBTP

I graduated from the University of Warwick in 2018 with a BSc. (Hons) in Biomedical Science. During my degree I undertook an industrial placement as a lab assistant in molecular diagnostics at Micropathology Ltd. I am currently a BBSRC funded student on the Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership through which I undertook lab rotations at Birmingham and Warwick University before I started my PhD in the Unnikrishnan lab. My PhD project is titled ‘Investigating biological functions of the staphylococcal type VII secretion system’.  The aims of my project involve determining the structures and identifying the roles of Staphylococcus aureus Ess components.

Thomas MacCreath

PhD Candidate – MIBTP

I graduated from Aston University in 2019 with a BSc. (Hons) in Biomedical Science, during which I undertook an industrial internship at GE Healthcare Life Sciences (now Cytiva), working within the Biology Technical Support team at the Cardiff manufacturing site. I then joined the Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP) in September 2019 and received interdisciplinary training before joining the Unnikrishnan group in July 2020 as a PhD student. The aim of my project is to investigate host – pathogen interactions associated with Clostridioides difficile colonisation and infection. To achieve this, a novel fluidics tool will be developed in collaboration with Dr. Jérôme Charmet (WMG) that enables in vitro studies of the host-pathogen gut interface in a physiologically representative system. This can then be used to elucidate the key pathways that are modulated during a C. difficile infection through studying host-pathogen transcriptomics by dual RNA-Seq.

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