I graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2000 with a degree in Biology and obtained a PhD in the molecular mechanisms of insecticide resistance from Rothamsted Research/Nottingham University in 2004. I then took a two year post-doctoral position in the Plant Pathology Department at Rothamsted before moving to the Biological Chemistry Department to join the Technology Development Group of the Innovative Vector Control Consortium with the aim of the consortium being the rational control of insects which are disease vectors in third world countries. In Sep 2009 I was awarded an Institute Career Path Fellowship by the BBSRC and funding of over £0.8m, to develop my research on the molecular mechanisms underlying insecticide resistance in agricultural and human health pests.
My research interests are characterising the mechanisms of insecticide resistance in agricultural and human health pests using a range of molecular and genomic approaches, this has recently extended into the study of the large supergene families involved in conferring metabolic resistance (see fellowship project below). An applied aspect of my research is the development of diagnostics to screen for resistance in field populations of insects as a tool for resistance management strategies.
A genomic approach to understanding insecticide resistance in crop pests
Insecticide resistance in crop pests has been an ongoing problem since the introduction of synthetic insecticides in the 1940’s and has been shown to develop through two main mechanisms 1) the increased production of enzymes which can break down or bind to the insecticide and 2) structural changes in the target protein that render it less sensitive to the toxic effects of the insecticide. This fellowship will investigate insecticide resistance in two important crop pests, the peach potato aphid (Myzus persicae) and the brown planthopper (Nilaparvata lugens). M. persicae is a major pest on a range of crops in the UK and Europe and N. lugens is a major pest of rice crops in Asia, both cause damage to plants through direct feeding and the transmission of viruses resulting in high economic losses. The main insecticide class currently used to control M. persicae and N. lugens are the neonicotinoids, however reports of resistance to this insecticide class have recently been described. Biochemical studies have shown that this resistance is likely to be caused by increased production of enzymes that break down the insecticide, in particular a group of enzymes called cytochrome P450 monooxgenases (P450s). New molecular and genomic approaches will be used to identify the genes responsible for the production of P450s and determine whether changes in their expression affect the levels of neonicotinoid resistance in the insect pests. The findings will be exploited to develop diagnostic tools to monitor insect populations for resistance and develop management strategies for the use of neonicotinoid insecticides that will aim to slow or prevent the development of resistance in practice. This project will be carried out in collaboration with partners in agrochemical companies and the Insecticide Resistance Action Group to ensure the findings of this study can be exploited rapidly.