Meet the team

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.

Dr Pooja Agarwal

Research Fellow – Warwick Monash Alliance AMR

I completed my Ph.D. at the Central Drug Research Institute, India where I focused mainly on the persistence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) in adipose tissue. Using a mouse model, I showed that Mtb is able to persist in adipose tissue even after successful drug treatment.

After completing my Ph.D., I joined as a postdoctoral fellow with Prof Valerie Mizrahi at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. There, I worked for three years on a project involving Mtb and its interaction with foamy macrophages.

I joined the Unnikrishnan group in February 2022 as a Research Fellow under the Monash Warwick Alliance AMR programme. Here, I will work on an interdisciplinary project that aims to develop novel nanoparticle-based approaches to target intracellular human pathogens like Mtb and Staphylococcus aureus using relevant in vitro and in vivo infection models

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.

Ruth (JJ) Awodipe

PhD Candidate – MRC DTP

I completed my bachelor degree in Biomedical Research at the University of Birmingham. I then joined the Medical Research Council funded Doctoral Training Programme (MRC DTP) at the University of Warwick in 2019. During the first year of this programme, I received an MSc in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research and I am now on the PhD part of the programme. My research focuses on identifying bacterial and host proteins that are key to bone cell infection. I am also exploring the use of novel antibiotic delivery systems against intracellular S. aureus.

Kavana Bywater-Brenna

PhD Candidate – ARAP

I graduated from the University of East Anglia in 2018 with a MSci (Hons) in Microbiology, following which I worked as a visiting researcher investigating Streptomyces development. In 2020 I embarked on a PhD in the Unnikrishnan lab at the University of Warwick, as part of the A*STAR Research Attachment Programme (ARAP), in collaboration with the Genome Institute of Singapore. My PhD project seeks to investigate microbiome interactions and their role on pathogen colonisation, with a particular focus on Clostridioides difficile colonisation and infection. Here, I aim to employ metatranscriptomic approaches to model these dynamic interactions between microbiota, pathogen and host, to better understand their roles during pathogenesis.

Richard Allen

PhD Candidate – MRC DTP

I completed my BSc (Hons) degree in Biology from the University of Bath in 2020 which included an industrial placement at ALS Pharmaceutical. I then joined the MRC DTP at Warwick Medical School where I completed my MSc degree in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research and joined the Unnikrishnan lab as a PhD student. I am working to elucidate the role of the Type VII secretion system of Staphylococcus aureus in the manipulation of macrophage cell death during infection. Also, in collaboration with Dr Avinash Shenoy at Imperial College London, I will investigate the innate immune responses of macrophages during S. aureus infection.

Artemis (Amy) Milne

PhD Candidate – ARAP

I graduated from the University of Leicester with a BSc (Hons) in Medical Biochemistry, where I developed an interest in immunology and host-directed therapies. In 2018, I joined the A*STAR Research Attachment Programme (ARAP), which involved a 2.5-year collaboration with Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) and Infectious Diseases Labs (ID Labs). 

My PhD project aims to probe the host-pathogen interactions that occur between Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) and bone cells, using novel molecular and cellular methods. Mtb infection of the skeleton is a devastating manifestation of the disease and revealing the molecular basis of pathogenesis that occurs will help to reveal key proteins and signalling pathways that can be targeted for early markers of diagnosis and treatments in the future.  

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