Dr Nick Furnham
Nick Furnham's research can be divided into gaining a fundamental understanding of the evolution of novel protein functions and the applications of the findings to important questions in infectious disease biology, in particular antimicrobial resistance and the development of novel therapeutics.
Using an interdisciplinary approach combining biology and chemistry with computer science he develops new algorithms and bioinformatics tools through large-scale integrative data processing. At the centre of his research is the development of a resource, FunTree (www.funtree.info), which brings together on a large-scale from thousands of genomes protein sequences, structures, taxonomy, phylogenetic analysis and comparisons of protein function.
The application of the resource and associated computational tool kit has led to a number of projects including understand genomic variance through GWAS studies in surveillance and tracking of antimicrobial resistance and pharmacogenomics combined with high-content screening for drug repurposing in neglected tropical diseases.
Another project has put allergy into its evolutionary context by establishing molecular similarities between known allergens and proteins in multicellular parasites. Nick verified these predictions experimentally to show new proteins in parasitic worms that cause allergy like immune responses, demonstrating that allergy is the price we pay for evolving immunity to these parasites. This work has received interest in the wider media with reports in Science, the Smithsonian (amongst others) and interviews on CBC Radio1 (Canada).