Professor Garry Blakely

Chair of Microbial Genetics and Biotechnology


1990    Ph.D. Queens University of Belfast

1990-1994    MRC postdoctoral research associate, Department of Genetics, University of Glasgow.

1994-1998    MRC postdoctoral research associate, Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford.

1998-2002    Wellcome Trust RCD Fellow

1999    Joined Edinburgh University

Undergraduate teaching

Honours Programme Organiser for Biotechnology

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Research summary

Our lab focuses on the genetics, genomics and biochemistry of bacteria. We aim to provide new biological insights and novel biotechnological solutions for both biomedicine and industrial applications. Our research has four main themes: chromosome segregation and stability in bacteria; control of restriction-modification systems; polysaccharide biosynthesis; host-microbiome interactions.

We work with a range of human and animal pathogens, including the genera Bacteroides, Clostridium, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. Our work has led to the development of novel tools to manipulate important opportunistic pathogens such as B. fragilis and C. difficile. This has provided new insights into the biology of these organisms, for example, by identifying proteins that are involved in processed DNA damage. This is important because some antibiotics, e.g., metronidazole, used to treat infections caused by anaerobic pathogens act by causing breaks in DNA.

Our work on the genomics of B. fragilis led to the identification of the first homologue of eukaryotic ubiquitin in a bacterium. The protein (BfUbb) shares 63% identity with human ubiquitin and is capable of inhibiting ubiquitylation in vitro. BfUbb also has novel antimicrobial properties against a number of B. fragilis strains. In collaboration with a group from the Queen’s University, Belfast, we have recently shown that some patients with certain types of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis) have high levels of antibodies against BfUbb. Further research is ongoing to determine how this protein might contribute to initiation and development of these incurable chronic diseases.

We also work with national and international industrial partners to develop new bacterial strains for production of novel compounds and materials of biotechnological importance.

Recent Publications

Theophilou ES., Vohra P., PoxtonIR. & Blakely GW. (2019). Generation of Markerless Deletions in the Nosocomial Pathogen Clostridium difficile by induction of Double-strand Breaks. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 23; 85(3). pii: e02055-18.  DOI: 10.1128/AEM.02055-18

Stewart L, Edgar D, Blakely G & Patrick S. (2018). Antigenic mimicry of ubiquitin by the gut bacterium Bacteroides fragilis: a potential link with autoimmune disease. Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 194:153-165.

Husain F, Veeranagouda Y, Boente R, Patrick S, Blakely G and Wexler HM. (2017). Novel large-scale chromosomal transfer in Bacteroides fragilis contributes to its pan-genome and rapid environmental adaptation. Microbial Genomics 3(11). doi: 10.1099/mgen.0.000136.

Venkateswaran S, Gwynne PJ, Wu M, Hardman A, Lilienkampf A, Pernagallo S, Blakely G, Swann DG, Bradley M, Gallagher MP. (2016). High-throughput Identification of Bacteria Repellent Polymers for Medical Devices. J Vis Exp. (117). doi: 10.3791/54382.

Risse J, Thomson M, Patrick S, Blakely G, Koutsovoulos G, Blaxter M, Watson M  (2015). A single chromosome assembly of Bacteroides fragilis strain BE1 from Illumina and MinION nanopore sequencing data. Gigascience. 4: 4:60.

Blakely GW. (2015). Horizontal Gene Transfer and DNA Recombination. Chapter 15, pp291-301. In, ‘Molecular Medical Microbiology’ 2nd Edition. Edited by Yi-Wei Tang & Max Sussman. Elsevier

Venkateswaran, S., Wu, M., Gwynne, P. J., Hardman, A., Lilienkampf, A., Pernagallo, S., Blakely, G., Swann, D. G., Gallagher, M. P. & Bradley, M. (2014). Bacteria repelling poly(methylmethacrylate-co-dimethylacrylamide) coatings for biomedical devices. Journal of Materials Chemistry B. 2:6723-6729.

Chen K, Reuter M, Sanghvi B, Roberts GA, Cooper LP, Tilling M, Blakely GW, Dryden DT. (2014). ArdA proteins from different mobile genetic elements can bind to the EcoKI Type I DNA methyltransferase of E. coli K12. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1844:505-511.

Vohra, P. and Blakely, GW. (2013). Easing the Global Burden of Diarrhoeal Disease: Can Synthetic Biology Help? Systems and Synthetic Biology 7: 73-78.

Roberts, GA, Chen, K, Bower, EK, Madrzak, J, Woods, A, Barker, AM, Cooper, LP, White, JH, Blakely, GW, Manfield, I and Dryden DT. (2013). Mutations of the domain forming the dimeric interface of the ArdA protein affect dimerisation and antimodification activity but not antirestriction activity. FEBS J. 280:4903-4914.