Personal profile

Research Interests

Dr Doug Browning is a lecturer in the School of Biosciences at Aston University. His research focuses on three main areas: 1) how pathogenic bacteria regulate gene expression, 2) how the outer membranes of Gram-negative bacteria are assembled and how they can be disrupted and 3) the use of synthetic biology to design new bacterial recombinant protein expression systems.

Industrial contract research and consultancy work is welcomed.

Ph.D projects available at: Self-Funded Projects | Aston University Projects 2 & 5 

 

1) Regulation of bacterial virulence. During their transition through the mammalian gut, enteric bacteria experience many harsh environmental conditions, having to cope with limited nutrients, low oxygen tensions and the presence of toxic molecules. Thus, to survive and cause disease, enteric pathogens must sense their environment and adapt by altering their patterns of gene expression. This is largely achieved by controlling transcription initiation and in many cases involves the interplay of several global transcription factors at promoter regions. My research examines how global transcription factors (e.g., CRP, FNR, AggR and NarL) and protein factors which fold the bacterial chromosome (e.g., IHF, Fis and HNS) can coordinate genome wide gene expression in pathogens such as enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAEC), Klebsiella pneumoniae, Shigella flexneri and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium.

2) Insertion of beta-barrel membrane proteins into the outer membranes of bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria have an outer membrane that functions as a barrier to protect the bacterium from toxic compounds such as antibiotics and detergents. It is composed of phospholipids, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and two major classes of proteins, lipoproteins and integral beta-barrel outer membrane proteins (OMPs). Insertion of OMPs in E. coli is an essential process and is carried out by the BAM complex (beta-barrel assembly machinery). In E. coli this multi-protein complex consists of the OMP BamA and four accessory lipoproteins (BamB, BamC, BamD and BamE). My research examines how the BAM complex orchestrates the folding and insertion of OMPs into the outer membrane of E. coli and how this machinery differs in other important Gram-negative bacteria, such as Haemophilus influenzae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Neisseria meningitidis.

3)  Engineering of bacterial systems for recombinant protein production. Many of the bacterial recombinant protein production (RPP) systems currently used for RPP were developed in the 1980’s and are often unsuited for the production of high-quality therapeutic products, such as antibodies. My current research aims to overcome many of the problems associated with bacterial RPP systems by engineering promoters, plasmids and strains to achieve coordinated and sustainable RPP to improve both product yield and quality.

 

Current lab members:

Dr Alexandra Trigg (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)

Samiya Akthar-Ahad (MBiol Student)

Maryam Irani (MSc Student)

Mir-humza Hussain (Placement Student)

 

Contact Details

Email: D.Browning@aston.ac.uk

 

Qualifications

PhD in Microbiology, University of Warwick, UK.

BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences (Genetics), University of Birmingham, UK.

 

Membership of Professional Bodies

Member of the Microbiology Society since 2002.

 

Professional/editorial offices

Elected member of the Microbiology Society Sustainability Committee (2024 onwards).

UKRN (UK Reproducibility Network) Local Network Lead (2021-2022).  

Co-Chair of UKRSA/ Vitae (UK Research Staff Association) (2020-2022).

Midlands Regional Representative for UKRSA (2020-2022).

https://ukrsavitae.wixsite.com/ukrsa/the-team

Member of the Vitae Researcher Networks Working Group (2020-22)

Elected member of the Microbiology Society Professional Development (PDC) Committee (2015-20).

 

Teaching Activity

Programme Director MRes Research Scientist (L7 Degree Apprenticeship)

Biosciences Admissions Tutor (2022-23). 

 

BB6AMB: Advanced Molecular Biology (Final Year)

BB6AMI: Applied Microbiology (Final Year).

BB6TMB: Topics in Molecular Biosciences (Final Year)

BY3PR1: Biology Research Project (Final Year).

BB6PRO/ BB6RPP: Research Project and Preparation (Final Year).

BI4ELS/ BI4ELX: Essential Laboratory Skills (MSc/ MRes).

BI4ABT: Applied Biotechnology (MSc) Module Lead.

BI4PRC: Professional Research and Communication Skills  (MRes Research Scientist) Module Lead.

BPG140: Business for the Biosciences (MRes Research Scientist) Module Lead.

BI4RPR: MRes Research Scientist Project. Module Lead.

 

PhD Supervision

Completed:

Charlotte Wilson (MIBTP Ph.D. Rotation Project/ Completed 2024). Unwrapping the puzzle of crossspecies BamD essentiality.

Joni MacDonald (MIBTP Ph.D. Rotation Project/ Completed 2024). Investigating urea-inducible vectors of recombinant protein production

Qonita Afinanisa Machfoed (MIBTP Ph.D. Rotation Project/ Completed 2023). Biofilm formation and gene regulation in Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli.

Matthew Adams (MIBTP Ph.D. Rotation Project/ Completed 2023). Antimicrobial resistance and gene regulation in Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli.

Dr. Munirah Alhammadi (Ph.D. / University of Birmingham). The influence of global transcription factors on Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli promoters that are responsible for virulence determinant expression.

Dr. Gabrielle Christie (Ph.D./ University of Birmingham/ Completed 2022). Regulation of gene expression in enteroaggregative Escherichia coli by AggR.

Andrew Fletcher (MIBTP Ph.D. Rotation Project/ completed 2022). Antimicrobial resistance and gene regulation in Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli

Dr. Radwa Abdelwahab (Ph.D. / University of Birmingham/ Completed 2019) Regulation of gene expression in enteroaggregative Escherichia coli.

Gurneet Dhanoa (MIBTP Ph.D. Rotation Project/ completed 2019). Control of Gene Expression in Pathogenic Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli.

Dr. Muhammad Yasir (Ph.D. / University of Birmingham/ Completed 2017) Regulation of virulence determinants in enteroaggregative Escherichia coli.

Gurdamanjit Singh (MIBTP Ph.D. Rotation Project/ completed 2017). The role of CRP in regulation of the picU promoter in Uropathogenic Escherichia coli.

 

Funding Applications and Awards

Current:

1)  Industrial Contract Research Work for discoveric bio beta. Engineering of bacterial outer membrane proteins. Awarded £130,687 in 2024.

2) BBSRC Engineering Biology Mission Awards. Optimal cell factories for membrane protein production (BB/Y007603/1). (Darlington, Browning (Aston Lead PI), Bill, Goddard, Stansfeld). Awarded £1,761,242 (1/5/24 to 31/3/26).

3) Aston University Bridging Funding. Awarded £11,859 (1/4/24 to 30/6/24).   

4) BBSRC Grant. Global Regulators in a Bacterial Pathogen and Virulence. (Busby/ Grainger/Browning). Co-Investigator. Awarded £543,590 (1/1/22 to 31/12/24)

 

Completed:

1) BBSRC Impact Acceleration Award. Exploitation of the Escherichia coli lite strains for controlled low-level recombinant protein production. Awarded £29,896 (1/10/23 to 31/03/24).   

2) Industrial Contract Research Work for discoveric bio beta. Engineering of bacterial outer membrane proteins (Omps). Awarded £78,451 (30/3/23 to 29/9/23).

3) BBSRC Impact Acceleration Award (IAA) Follow-on-Fund. Exploitation of urea-inducible gene expression for recombinant protein production and targeted delivery of therapeutics. (Browning & Busby). Principal Investigator. Awarded £22,486 (1/5/21 to 31/10/21)

4) Industrial Contract Research Work for discoveric bio beta. Escherichia coli K-12 LPS O-antigen Reconstitution. Awarded £50,950.74 from 1/7/21 to 30/9/21.

5) Industrial Contract Research Work for Syngenta. Feasibility testing with the PAR promoters and E. coli lite strains. Awarded £33,216 form 1/9/20 to 30/11/20.

6) BBSRC Impact Acceleration Award (IAA) Follow-on-Fund. Making Recombinant Protein Production as “cheap as chips”. (Browning and Busby). Principal Investigator. Awarded £22,486 from 1/12/19 to 31/5/20.

7) BBSRC Grant BB/R017689/1. Understanding and exploiting regulation in pathogenic enteroaggregative Escherichia coli. (Busby, Browning and Henderson). Researcher Co-Investigator. Awarded £489,993 from 1/1/19 to 31/12/21.

8) BBSRC Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst Early-Stage Translation Round 1 (BB/M018261/1). A new generation of E. coli expression hosts and tools for recombinant protein production. (Robinson/ Busby/ Wright/ Dafforn/ Smales/ Browning). Researcher Co-Investigator. The University of Birmingham was awarded £936,079 (1/3/15 to 30/9/19).

9) BBSRC Grant BB/J006076/1. Bacterial chromosome structure and transcription. (Busby/ Pallen/ Grainger/ Browning). Researcher Co-Investigator. Awarded £520,230 (1/8/12 to 31/12/15).

 

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