Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland P61 C996
One of our major research interests concerns the in-depth analysis of bacteriophages and the relationship that they have with their host cells. The work has mainly focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms underpinning the phage infection of bacterial cells. In addition, we are investigating the potential of using bacteriophages, and products derived from them, as therapeutics agents and for pathogen detection. Numerous phages and their endolysins have been characterised, some of which target the more problematic pathogens including MRSA, Clostridium difficile, E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes.
Research area of interest for MSCA IF application: Phage-derived affinity proteins as biorecognition elements for pathogen detection:
The project would involve the recombinant production and characterisation of phage-derived affinity proteins with a view to their use as biorecognition elements for pathogen detection. In particular, we are interested in phage-receptor binding proteins, the proteins in the tail of phages that drive specificity. We would like to identify these (for some phages, we already know), produce and purify them recombinantly (a method development to do this would be part of the project), and characterise them with a view to utilising these proteins as the biorecognition elements for bacterial detection. There are some methods for assessing the ability of the phage proteins to detect their hosts, and we would like to establish these in the laboratory. The pathogens whose phages we are interested in are Listeria moncytogenes and Cronobacter sakazaaki, two pathogens which prey on vulnerable populations.
To date, Olivia has supervised 5 PhD students and 4 MSc students to completion. She has also supervised 2 post-doctoral researchers, 2 contract technologists and a host of student internships in the past. Her current research team consists of 4 PhD students, 2 MSc students, 2 post-doctoral researchers and 1 technician.