Highlights from 2019!

So, 2019 was a busy year for the Hall lab, which hasn’t left us much time for updating the website! But we did lots of updates on Twitter – which is probably the best and easiest way to follow us @hall_lab

So, what were we all up to? Here are a few highlights from throughout the year 😊

Jan 2019: We welcomed Nancy into the group as a new PhD student funded by BigC – her project will explore the gut microbiota of breast cancer patients. We also said hello to a new postdoc, Gowri who is investigating Bifidobacterium factors that modulate host responses. Raymond also passed his PhD viva with only minor corrections! 

Feb 2019: Lindsay made an appearance of Radio 4, talking about beating the winter bugs on the show ‘The best thing since sliced bread?’. We also said farewell to our wonderful MSc student from the Technical University of Munich – Deborah Pungel – who did some exciting work on Bifidobacterium exopolysaccharide acting as a dietary substrate for the early life microbiota (which went out as a preprint in Dec 2019). Microbes in Norwich also happened with lots of great data presented by Hall lab members. 

March 2019: Was moving month, with the whole of Quadram Institute relocating into their shiny new building across the road – amazing team work to get the lab packed and unpacked so quickly! We were also out and about giving various talks about our research, including Lindsay discussing the preterm probiotic BAMBI study at Pharmabiotics 2019 in Paris. We also published a nice paper in the journal Microbiome with great collaborators – with Dr Will Rowe as lead author – which involved developing new bioinformatics tools (HULK) for profiling microbiome samples. We also got good news that a collaborative grant led by Prof Willem van Schaik at the University of Birmingham was funded by the BBSRC on the spread of antibiotic resistance genes in the preterm microbiome.  

April 2019: A few of the Hall lab team headed to Belfast for the 2019 annual Microbiology Society conference, with Magda and Raymond presenting posters that were well received and Lindsay got to listen to her old PhD supervisor Prof Gordon Dougan give his Marjory Stephenson Prize Lecture, which included some very old photos! The QIB PEARL study was also launched in April – which started recruiting pregnant women to follow for 3 years – including their babies – for exciting microbiome studies. We also helped out with the Art of the Gut project – run by local artist Jennie Pedley, and also did a few public talks across the UK. We also welcomed Iliana to the lab – a research scientist working on live biotherapeutics. 

May 2019: We appeared in the Microbiome Times – to highlight the potential of probiotics in preterm infants, with Lindsay being interviewed by Kristina Campbell (Microbiome Science writer). 

June 2019: We took our Guardians of the Gut exhibit to the Norwich Research Park summer party – and our exhibit and wider PE work was also acknowledged by an Engagement Award – which the team received at the University of East Anglia Awards night! Magda and Lindsay also popped over to Trondheim to the Norwegian Microbiology Society conference – with Magda presenting some her exciting PhD work on B. longum in infants. We welcomed visiting postdoc Dr Diana Papp (via a talent support scholarship) where she is hoping to integrate her skills to develop transgenic ‘mini-guts’ (organoids) to understand how Bifidobacterium affect intestinal cells.

July 2019: Raymond had his PhD graduation on a lovely summer’s day! The weather was also great for another outing for Guardians of the Gut to the music festival Latitude – with various Hall lab members camping over the weekend – giving tours round the gut and enjoying the music! Lindsay attended FEMS2019 – where she also delivered her WH Pierce Prize Lecture. This is a prestigious prize awarded each year to a microbiologist who has made a substantial contribution to the science of applied microbiology (from the Society of Applied Microbiology). Lindsay was gobsmacked she had been awarded it – and said it reflects all the hard work of Hall lab team members, past and present!

August 2019: We had a few Hall lab members move onHolly who has now started her PhD down in London, and two University of Nottingham MSc students (Gloria and Krityaa) that Raymond and Magda were supervising. Raymond and Lindsay also headed to the beautiful city of Leiden to Clostpath 2019 – and Raymond received an ESCIMD travel grant to go, with Lindsay giving a keynote talk highlighting lots of Raymond’s cool PhD work. We also published an exciting study with colleagues at Keele University showing how antibiotic usage is associated with a higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis in BMC Medicine. We also did a bit of TV in 2019, with Lindsay talking about home bacteria-testing kits with Sian Williams on ITV – Save Money Good Health.

September 2019: Lindsay attended the official opening of the Being Human exhibit at the Wellcome Collection in London where she helped provide a scientist’s perspective including ‘collaborating’ on a scented sculpture exploring Bifidobacterium breast milk interactions designed by the artist Tasha Marks. September also included a Hall lab team building day – this time crazy golf following by celebratory drinks! Raymond had a busy publishing month: first off was his paper in the journal Toxins on interesting and important toxicogenic Clostridium perfringens strains in healthy children. Next up in Microbial Genomics was a longitudinal study probing genomic aspects of CP strains from UK-associated gastroenteritis outbreaks in collaboration with PHE. We said a sad farewell to two amazing Hall lab members Shab and Zoe – we wish them lots of success in their next career steps – Shab in Cambridge – Zoe in Oz!

October 2019: Anne joined the lab as a new PhD student – who will be exploring the impact of the early life microbiota on vaccine responses, and we also welcomed Peter as a project scientist working on the PEARL cohort study.  We also did a bit more public engagement including public talks, school visits and an interview for a local paper. Lindsay also delivered another(!) prize lecture – this time she received the Wain Medal at the University of Kent which is endowed by the Wain family – for the Biochemistry Professor Louis Wain. The accolade is annually given to an outstanding UK-based young scientist doing research in biochemistry. An important clinical paper was also published with colleagues at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NICU – which showed NEC, sepsis, & mortality rates before and after use of probiotics. This study is the first UK data reporting experience with routine multi-species probiotics in a NICU. Raymond also got another paper out, this time in Animal Microbiome; exploring genomic variation in chicken-associated C. perfringens strains (healthy vs. necrotic enteritis) and the caecal microbiome. 

November 2019: We were delighted to share our paper exploring how an infant breastmilk diet modulates Bifidobacterium communities which was published in ISME. This exciting work was led by joint first authors Mel and Ian but was also a real Hall lab team effort. Hall lab PhD student number 3 – Cristina, submitted her PhD thesis, which includes her exciting work on the preterm infant microbiome (viva in Feb 2020). We also celebrated the arrival of Raymond’s new wee one!  

December 2019: We ended the year on a bang with our minION preterm microbiome, pathogen and AMR diagnostics paper published in Nature Microbiology (with Cristiana as joint first author). This was a wonderful collaboration with colleagues at the Earlham Institute – especially Richard Leggett and Matt Clark. Another great collaborative paper was published in PeerJ with colleagues at the University of Glasgow, with Lauren the first author spending time in our lab learning some microbiome profiling techniques the year previously. We also had a lovely Christmas lab meal to end what we think has been an exciting and successful year!