Hall lab 2020 update!

So 2020 has been a crazy year for everyone around the world, little did we know that we’d only get the first few months of 2020 to work ‘normally’. Although this has been a difficult and massively disturbed year, with more to come in 2021, everyone in the team has been unbelievably fantastic, adjusting to working from home, and then working in a safe and responsible manner once Quadram re-opened. 

The one thing this pandemic has told us in crystal clear terms – is how important science is, and when people work together look what can be achieved – I mean we have new SARS-CoV-2 vaccines from concept, to country-wide approvals and mass vaccination in 10 months!

As always we are more active on Twitter for our updates (@hall_lab), so why not follow us to see what we get up to in ‘real-time’?!

January: Lindsay contributed to ‘Why Microbiology Matters ‘to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Microbiology Society with an interview. Lindsay also did an interview for BBC Radio 4: Inside Health to talk about probiotics in babies, and was a contributing author on a social science paper about setting the agenda for microbiome science.

February: We had a perfect day for women in science day (11th Feb) as Cristina passed her PhD viva with only minor corrections! Nancy also had her BigC PhD work highlighted and why she loves science and being a scientist. Lindsay also gave a seminar at St Georges, London. We ended the month with a fun lab social (last one not socially distanced) – a treasure hunt round Norwich followed by food and drinks!  

March: This was when SARS-CoV-2 hit hard in the UK so we had lockdown – but just before we uploaded a cool preprint with the Robinson Lab on the impact of antibiotics-induced microbiome disturbances on Breast Cancer outcomes in preclinical models, and Deborah’s MSc project was published – exploring how Bifidobacterium exopolysaccharides may act as dietary substrates. Lindsay also (virtually) presented the labs preterm projects to the Swedish Neonatal Quality Register. 

April: Everyone was still figuring out how to work from home and adjusting to a completely new way of life, and we had our first virtual lab social! Sarah from the lab stepped up and was one of the Quadram volunteers to help with covid testing in NNUH labs – so big thanks to Sarah! We were also pleased to share a long-term project that Zoe was joint first author on, exploring how the early life gut microbiota protects from intestinal inflammation in mice. We also said bye to Iliana – but only briefly as she then joined as a PhD student in October! 

May: Lindsay contributed to another article for the Microbiology Society 75th anniversary – on why microbiomes matter. We also had a few publications – a fab collaboration with Prof Lesley Hoyles and her team about atypical Klebsiella in preterm infants and Matthew had his F1000 review on the neonatal microbiome published.

June: Lindsay was part of a podcast series exploring the gut microbiome

July: We had a busy month – including 2 papers in iScience! Raymond’s paper on how B. breve modulates the neonatal small intestinal epithelium, with network analysis by Korcsmaros and Hall lab PhD student Aggie and Magda’s first (first!) author PhD paper on how Bifidobacterium strains change across a changing early life diet . We were also active in public engagement, including contributing to the Royal Society’s Summer Science Online and we launched our Guardians of the Gut classroom pack – which is a free online resource for school children to find out about their gut microbes and the jobs that they do!  

August: We had a big milestone for the lab this month – as our preterm probiotics clinical study (BAMBI) was published after years of hard work – particularly by joint first authors Cristina and Matthew. We also said goodbye to Peter who moved to start a new project scientist position at Cambridge University. 

September: Magda (with Lindsay and collaborator Maria Carmen Collado) had her book chapter published – which provides a comprehensive overview of early life microbiome (gut and milk) and the role of prebiotics

October: Lindsay gave talks at 2 virtual microbiome conferences in 1 week(!): Cold Spring Harbor: Microbiome and Exploring Human Host-Microbiome Interactions in Health and Disease, and also a seminar at the University of Vienna. Iliana also started her PhD which will explore the developing skin microbiome in our PEARL mother-baby cohort. 

November: We welcomed Tom to the group – as part of the PEARL team and focusing on lab-based activities. Magda (Hall lab PhD student number 4) also submitted her PhD thesis, and big well done to her given the extreme difficulties of the ongoing pandemic she had to deal with! We also had another BAMBI-linked paper published – this time a nice collaboration with the Carding lab – exploring the developing mycobiome in preterm infants and we had our preterm infant microbiome case study published on world prematurity day.

December: Lindsay gave some seminars highlighting some of the labs 2020 work but also exciting ongoing studies (Queens University Belfast and University College Cork). A review on arid-adapted hosts and their microbiomes was also published – led by Peter a joint PhD student with the Haerty group. We also had our virtual xmas get together and we said farewell to Gowri after his 2 year postdoc in the lab. And what does 2021 hold for the Hall lab…?! Well check out our next BIG news item to find out more!