Imperial College London


Faculty of MedicineDepartment of Medicine

Reader in Systems Microbiology



+44 (0)20 7594 3198b.robertson




Ms Sophie Kemp +44 (0)20 7594 3199




3.41Flowers buildingSouth Kensington Campus





Mycobacterium tuberculosis is one of the most successful pathogens affecting humankind: around 9 million people develop tuberculosis every year, resulting in 1.4 million deaths. Most people mount an immune response that is sufficient to control initial infection but they remain susceptible to reinfection or reactivation disease in later life. Immunological evidence suggests that up to two billion people worldwide may harbour latent tuberculosis, with a ten percent lifetime risk of developing active disease. The development of improved drugs, diagnostics and vaccines is central to the WHO End-TB strategy, which aims by 2035 for a:

95% reduction in TB deaths compared with 2015.

90% reduction in TB incidence rate compared with 2015.

Zero TB-affected families facing catastrophic costs due to TB

The aim of our research is to understand the host-pathogen interactions underlying the complex biology of tuberculosis infection, and to exploit this understanding for development of improved tools for disease control. We use genome-based biology, taking advantage of the availability of mycobacterial sequence data, techniques for mutagenesis and expression profiling, and the natural diversity of clinical isolates. We are investigating different ways to deliver anti-TB drugs, the potential of anti-microbial peptides, and host-directed therapies to improve TB treatment. We are also analysing how mycobacteria grow and divide, using microfluidics-based single cell analysis and time-lapse video microscopy. Analysis and integration of large amounts of data on host and pathogen responses to infection is increasingly dependent on techniques coming from systems biology including image analysis and mathematical modelling.

Brian Robertson is a founder member of the MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection, and the Centre for Integrative Systems Biology and Bioinformatics. He is Co Editor-in-Chief of the journal Tuberculosis, and Director of the Wellcome Trust funded 4-year PhD programme in the Molecular and Cellular Basis of Infection.

creating awareness of extremely drug resistant TB.

This is an extraordinary effort to tell the story of extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis and TB through powerful photographs taken by James Nachtwey, who has been covering war and human rights stories for 30 years. In 2007, he was awarded the TED Prize, which comes with $100,000 and one wish to change the world.



Fox KA, Kirwan DE, Whittington AM, et al., 2018, Platelets Regulate Pulmonary Inflammation and Tissue Destruction in Tuberculosis., American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, ISSN:1073-449X

Priestman M, Thomas P, Robertson BD, et al., 2017, Mycobacteria Modify Their Cell Size Control under Sub-Optimal Carbon Sources., Front Cell Dev Biol, Vol:5, ISSN:2296-634X

Khara JS, Obuobi S, Wang Y, et al., 2017, Disruption of drug-resistant biofilms using de novo designed short alpha-helical antimicrobial peptides with idealized facial amphiphilicity, Acta Biomaterialia, Vol:57, ISSN:1742-7061, Pages:103-114

Butler RE, Krishnan N, Garcia-Jimenez W, et al., 2017, Susceptibility of Mycobacterium tuberculosis-infected host cells to phospho-MLKL driven necroptosis is dependent on cell type and presence of TNF alpha, Virulence, Vol:8, ISSN:2150-5594, Pages:1820-1832

Khara JS, Priestman M, Uhia I, et al., 2016, Unnatural amino acid analogues of membrane-active helical peptides with anti-mycobacterial activity and improved stability, Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, Vol:71, ISSN:0305-7453, Pages:2181-2191

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