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Research interests

Current Research

The aim of my research is to study the structural and physico-chemical characteristics of proteins involved in maintaining homeostasis of the human body. I am particularly interested in proteins, and their physiologically relevant complexes, that determine the elemental struggle between pathogenic microbes and the immune system of the host. Current projects include:

The Complement System and Microbial Immune Evasion:

The human complement system is comprised of about 20 plasma proteins and 10 receptors on cell membranes. Its primary function is to defend the host against microbial infections, leading to the clearance of antigen-antibody complexes and bacterial lysis. Many bacterial pathogens have evolved ways to adapt to their host environment and survive host immune attack by producing a variety of immune-modulatory factors. My laboratory studies the structural and functional aspects of the interactions between these immune evasion proteins and the complement system. This information will help to design better vaccines and drugs for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.


Press release on receiving BBSRC Follow-on Funding for the improvement of TB vaccines:


Press release on a paper in the journal Science on the structure of the complex between complement fragment C3d and complement receptor 2 (CR2/CD21):



Protein Glycation:

The attachment of sugars to proteins is a very important and well-controlled process in healthy individuals. Sugar-modified proteins (glycoproteins) add to the complexity and diversity of the complement of proteins (proteome) and also control a protein’s location in a cell or the body, its activity, and its interactions with other proteins. Undesired sugar modifications, however, may also occur in the form of glycation, where carbohydrates, such as glucose covalently bind to a protein without the controlling action of an enzyme. The degree of protein glycation has been shown to be an important factor and indicator in ageing and age-related chronic disease states such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
In collaboration with Dr Tony James (Chemistry, Bath) and Dr Rob Williams (Biology & Biochemistry, Bath) we are developing new tools to detect, identify and quantify carbohydrate modifications in glycated proteins that can ultimately be used as diagnostic tools.


Press release on a licence agreement with the company Abcam for our glycation detection technology:


Press release on the discovery of glycated proteins linked to Alzheimers disease:


Press release on the development of our glycation detection technology:


Youtube video "take the bitter with the sweet" explaining our glycation detection technology (Bath Ignite #4):



Current lab members:

Ayla Wahid (PhD student)

Rhys Dunphy (PhD student)

Alex MacPherson (PhD student, with UCB)


Previous lab members:

Omar Kassaar (Postdoc, with Rob Williams)

Catherine Back (Postdoc)

Marjorie Gibbon (Daphne Jackson Fellow)

Yi Yang (PhD student)

Marta Pereira Morais (PhD student and Postdoc)

Gyles Cozier (Postdoc, with Andrew Watts)

Suying Xu (Postdoc, with Tony James)

Ricardo Resende (Postdoc)

Sylvain Royer (Postdoc)

Ben Heath (Postdoc, with Stefan Bagby)

Julian Eaton (Postdoc, with Stefan Bagby)

Julia Mackay (Postdoc)

Elisabeth Clark (PhD student, with Stefan Bagby)

Huan-Lin Wu (PhD student, with Stefan Bagby)

Karen Atkins (PhD student)




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Boronic Acids Chemical Compounds
Staphylococcus aureus Medicine & Life Sciences
Complement Inactivating Agents Medicine & Life Sciences
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Electrophoresis Chemical Compounds
Complement 3d Receptors Medicine & Life Sciences
Immune Evasion Medicine & Life Sciences
Acids Engineering & Materials Science

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Projects 2005 2019

Research Output 1988 2018

Immunogenic compositions comprising Sbi protein and uses thereof

Van Den Elsen, J., Watts, A. & Marchbank, K. J. 31 May 2018 31 May 2018

Research output: Patent

Immunologic Factors
Staphylococcus aureus

The rational design of affinity attenuated OmCI for the purification of Complement C5

Macpherson, A., Liu, X., Dedi, N., Kennedy, J., Carrington, B., Durrant, O., Heywood, S., van den Elsen, J. & Lawson, A. D. G. 20 Jul 2018 In : The Journal of biological chemistry. 16 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Complement C5
Immune Evasion

The synthesis and kinetic evaluation of aryl a-aminophosphonates as novel inhibitors of T. cruzi trans-sialidase

Chen, Z., Marce Villa, P., Resende, R., Alzari, P. M., Frasch, A. C., Van Den Elsen, J., Crennell, S. & Watts, A. 5 Oct 2018 In : European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 158, p. 25-33 9 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Molecular modeling
Drug therapy
Chagas Disease
Open Access
Immune Evasion
Conjugate Vaccines
Dengue Virus
Neutralizing Antibodies
6 Citations

Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor is subjected to glucose modification and oxidation in Alzheimer's Disease

Kassaar, O., Pereira Morais, M., Xu, S., Adam, E. L., Chamberlain, R. C., Jenkins, B., James, T., Francis, P. T., Ward, S., Williams, R. J. & Van Den Elsen, J. 23 Feb 2017 In : Scientific Reports. 7, 42874

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Macrophage Migration-Inhibitory Factors
Alzheimer Disease