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Undaunted by its complexity, Professor Emma Slack is pioneering new methods of engineering the body’s largest microbiome to improve health and protect against disease.

Emma Slack stands with arms folded against dark green background © John Cairns

Before 2006, research into the microorganisms that colonise our internal and external body surfaces was ‘sort of niche,’ says Professor Emma Slack, the inaugural holder of the Barclay Williams Chair of Molecular Immunology at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology and a leader in the rapidly growing field of the human gut microbiome. ‘It was kind of difficult work, and it was a bit disgusting and so not many people really did anything with it,’ she explains.

That all changed with the advent of next-generation sequencing techniques, which made it possible for researchers to extract DNA from these microbial consortia and work out which organisms were actually present. ‘It led to an explosion in the field,’ says Professor Slack, ‘and the realisation that the majority of microbes we encounter in our daily lives are not pathogens; they’re microbes that live on us and in us and, maybe unsurprisingly, have a massive impact on how our bodies work, from how we respond to vaccines through to our risk of getting allergies and the ageing process.’

Read the full story on the Development Office website