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PhD Spotlight: Daniel Akinbosede

Daniel Akinbosede

PhD in Structural Biology

My research is broadly about understanding and fighting antibiotic resistance in two historically important pathogens: Neisseria meningitides and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The first is responsible for bacterial meningitis and a death toll of tens of thousands globally each year. The second is responsible for the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea and is classified by the World Health Organisation as a high priority bacterial pathogen.

New therapies are urgently needed in an effort to fight antibiotic resistance and key to developing these therapies is a need to understand how pathogens survive inside the host. Iron acquisition is one of the main barriers bacterial pathogens face and to ensure survival, many pathogens (such as Neisseria) have evolved creative systems that allow them to essentially steal iron from host proteins.

The pathogens I am interested in are able to utilise haemoglobin (the iron-carrying oxygen transport molecule found in red blood cells) and the haemoglobin-haptoglobin complex as an additional iron source. They do this through a TonB-dependent receptor called HpuAB, which is a bipartite protein complex that binds to the haemoglobin of the host’s red blood cells. The specifics of HpuAB functionality on a structural level are still poorly understood and my project aims to address this.

Along the way I am receiving training from very experienced scientists in the most up-to-date techniques. This has allowed me to study the structure and function of HpuB in iron acquisition using x-ray crystallography and electron microscopy. I have since made significant progress in reliably making this membrane protein (HpuB) and I have even crystallised it, which is one of the biggest achievements of my project so far.

Data from my project could contribute much needed information to developing much needed therapeutics and it has the potential to provide a significant contribution to the understanding of the structure of membrane beta barrel proteins in general. 

Alongside my successes in the lab, one of my proudest achievements while I’ve been at Sussex has been the work I do regarding race equality and the BAME attainment gap. Making the Sussex attainment gap a priority issue at the University and School of Life Sciences is a goal of mine and I believe we are well on the way to seeing that.

I love trying new things and being allowed to run with my own ideas. This is something I have really valued during my PhD but it does require a lot of hard work, independence and commitment. I think you have to be very sure about the project and your supervisor before you start your project.

I have a really good supervising team who value my contributions and allow me to shape the direction of my project. This environment has really helped me develop the way I think about solving scientific problems.

By: Jessica Gowers
Last updated: Thursday, 19 December 2019