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Dr Rebecca Weiser

Dr Rebecca Weiser

Research Associate

Email
weiserr@cardiff.ac.uk
Campuses
Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX

Overview

I am a postdoctoral research associate working in the Microbiomes, Microbes and Informatics group in the School of Biosciences.

I am very interested in bacteriophage research, particularly the isolation and characterision of bacteriophages that infect Burkholderia bacteria and the use of phages in biocontrol applicationsMy long term goal is to develop an independent research programme in this area.

Currently I am working on a project that investigates how bacteriophages can be used to treat bacterial onion rot caused by Burkholderia and Pectobacterium species. This is funded by an Innovate UK SMART grant and is in collaboration with APS Biocontrol, Allium & Brassica Agronomy and P. G. Rix (Farms) LTD.  

My other research interests include cystic fibrosis microbiology, microbiota analysis and bacterial contamination and preservative resistance in industry.

Biography

Education and qualifications

  • 2006-2009: B.Sc. (hons) Microbiology (Cardiff University)
  • 2009-2010: Foundation Diploma in Art and Design (Swansea Metropolitan University, now University of Wales Trinity Saint David)
  • 2010-2011: MSc in Medical Microbiology (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)
  • 2011-2015: PhD in Microbiology (Cardiff University)
  • 2018: Research Team Leadership AdvanceHE Endorsed Certificate (Cardiff University)

Career

  • April 2015-March 2017: Senior Technician (Cardiff University, BIOSI)
  • April 2017-January 2018: Genetic Technologist (Institute of Medical Genetics for Wales)
  • February 2018-July 2019: Postdoctoral Research Associate (Cardiff University, BIOSI)
  • July 2019-November 2019: Postdoctoral Research Associate (Cardiff University, PHRMY)
  • December 2019-June 2022: Postdoctoral Research Associate (Cardiff University, BIOSI)
  • July 2022 - present: Postdoctoral Research Associate (Cardiff University, BIOSI)

Professional memberships

  • Member of the Microbiology Society (and the Early Career Microbiologists Forum)
  • Member of the Society for Applied Microbiology
  • Member of the British Society for Plant Pathology
  • Member of the Cardiff Institute for Tissue Engineering and Repair (CITER)

Committees and reviewing

Cardiff University committees/networks

  • School of Biosciences Diversity, Culture and Belonging Committee member (Community sub-group) (January 2022 - present)
  • School of Biosciences Research Staff Group/Early Career Researcher Network member (December 2020 - present)
  • Cardiff Institute for Tissue Engineering and Repair (CITER), Research Committee member (December 2019 - February 2022)

External committees/networks

  • Microbiology Society, Microbial Genomics ECM Board of Reviewers (November 2020 - present)
  • Microbiology Society, Building Communities Committee member (January 2021 - September 2022)
  • GW4 Building Communities Committee member (January 2021 - September 2022): Reviewed two rounds of GW4 Generator Fund applications (2021 and 2022)
  • GW4 AMR Alliance ECR-PGR Network committee member (November 2021 - present) and Committee Chair since September 2022

Publications

2022

2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2015

2014

Research interests

Isolation and characterisation of Burkholderia bacteriophages

My interest in Burkholderia bacteriophages started during my MSc in 2011 and I have since sustained this interest around other research projects by conducting independent research and supervising undergraduate and MSc students at Cardiff University. There is limited research into bacteriophages and prophages of Burkholderia, a bacterial genus that has medical, environmental and industrial impact. I have examined the prophage content of Burkholderia species and isolated and characterised spontaneously induced Burkholderia bacteriophages (Weiser et al. 2020). I am now extending this research to investigate the use of bacteriophages for the biocontrol of Burkholderia species and was awarded a Microbiology Society Harry Smith Vacation Studentship in 2020 to look at phage treatment of Burkholderia plant diseases.

Currently I am working on a project that investigates how bacteriophages can be used to treat bacterial onion rot caused by Burkholderia and Pectobacterium species. This is funded by an Innovate UK SMART grant and is in collaboration with APS Biocontrol, Allium & Brassica Agronomy and P. G. Rix (Farms) LTD.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) lung infection and culture-independent techniques to investigate the microbiota

Culture-independent techniques have revealed that the microbial diversity in CF lung infections is far more complex than previously shown by culture-based methods. Culture-independent techniques and microbiota analysis are being increasingly used in translational studies and clinical trials to link microbiota composition to clinical outcomes. I have worked with AlgiPharma AS to examine changes in the CF lung microbiota during clinical trials of their novel anti-infective therapeutic OligoG (Weiser et al. 2021;Fisher et al. 2022). I have also worked with the CF-Sputum Induction Trial (CF-SpIT) (led by Dr Julian Forton at the Children's Hospital for Wales, Cardiff, UK) on a project funded by the US Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to investigate the lung microbiota in children with CF. This project investigated the microbial diversity captured by different respiratory sampling techniques and how the microbiota evolves with age (Weiser et al. 2022).

Pseudomonas aeruginosa as an opportunistic pathogen and a contaminant of industrial products and processes

P. aeruginosa is an important pathogen in CF lung infections that is multi-drug resistant and very difficult to treat. Examining how P. aeruginosa may develop resistance using relevant models is therefore important. I have collaborated with the Advanaced Therapies Group in the Cardiff School of Dentistry and AlgiPharma AS to examine how P. aeruginosa adapts to the novel CF therapeutic OligoG when growing in biofilms (Oakley et al. 2021). I was also involved in a collaborative international study to characterise a panel of P. aeruginosa strains as a resource for P. aeruginosa researchers (Cullen et al. 2015).

P. aeruginosa is also frequently found as a contaminant of industrial products such as home and personal care products. As an opportunistic pathogen that can pose a risk to vulnerable consumers, it is considered an 'objectionable organism'. During my PhD (see Thesis) I worked with Unilever Research and Development Port Sunlight to investigate detection methods for P. aeruginosa (Weiser et al. 2014) and characterise industrial P. aeruginosa strains (Weiser and Green et al. 2019). In addition, I also examined the reporting of EU non-sterile product microbial contamination incidents, which are largely performed using culture-based approaches and in nearly 50% of cases do not identify the causative organism (Cunningham-Oakes and Weiser et al. 2019).

Collaborative projects

I am keen to collaborate with other researchers and apply my expertise to different research projects. I recently collaborated with researchers at Queen's University Belfast and the University of Bath to investigate the effect of antibiotic delivery route on the gut microbiota (Kelly et al. 2021). I am also currently involved in a collaborative GW4 Crucible Seed Fund project to investigate the antimicrobial activity of medicinal maggot secretions for CF pathogens.

Research projects

  • June 2008 - August 2008: Wellcome Trust Summer research scholarship student working on the project ‘Screening plant roots and a collection of Burkholderia species held at Cardiff University (BIOSI) for antimicrobial activity’
  • September 2008 - February 2009: BSc final year research project at Cardiff University (BIOSI), ‘The genetic basis for antimicrobial production in Burkholderia gladioli’
  • June 2011 - September 2011: MSc at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with a practical project based at Cardiff University (BIOSI), titled ‘Isolation & characterisation of bacteriophages active against Burkholderia’
  • October 2011 - April 2015: BBSRC-CASE PhD student at Cardiff University (BIOSI), with Unilever as the industrial partner, investigating ‘The resistance of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to preservatives used in industrial formulations’
  • April 2015 - March 2017: Senior technician at Cardiff University (BIOSI) working with AlgiPharma AS. This project involved the culture-independent analysis of microbial diversity in cystic fibrosis sputum samples during clinical trials of OligoG
  • February 2018 - July 2019: Postdoctoral research associate at Cardiff University (BIOSI), working with the CF-SpIT clinical trial on a Wellcome Trust ISSF award funded project ‘Translating novel sampling and molecular-microbiota research diagnostics into clinical practice for cystic fibrosis lung infection’
  • July 2019 - November 2019: Postdoctoral research associate at Cardiff University (PHRMY) on an EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account project working with GAMA Healthcare to undertake translational work on novel decontamination technology developed at Cardiff University
  • December 2019 - June 2022: Postdoctoral research associate at Cardiff University (BIOSI) on a US Cystic Fibrosis Foundation award investigating 'Next generation induced sputum diagnostics to prevent infection in cystic fibrosis'
  • July 2022 - December 2023: Postdoctoral research associate at Cardiff University (BIOSI) on an Innovate UK SMART Grant 'SMART Bacteriophage Mixes: Sustainable Biocontrol for Onion Soft Rot'

Grants

  • Researcher Co-I, Wellcome Trust ISSF Translational Kickstart Award (2017): 'Translating novel sampling and molecular-microbiota research diagnostics into clinical practice for cystic fibrosis lung infection’
  • Researcher Co-I, US Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Award (2019): 'Next generation induced sputum diagnostics to prevent infection in cystic fibrosis'
  • Researcher Co-I, EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account project (2019)
  • PI, Cardiff University BIOSI Seedcorn funding (2020): 'Genomic analysis of bacteriophages infecting Burkholderia bacteria'
  • PI, Microbiology Society Harry Smith Vacation Studentship (2020): 'Bacteriophages as biocontrol agents for Burkholderia plant diseases'
  • Co-I, GW4 Crucible Seed Funding (2020): 'Precision maggot therapy against key cystic fibrosis pathogens'
  • PI, Welsh Government Innovation for All Public Engagement Funding (2021): 'Engaging the public with antimicrobial resistance using blended arts and science events'
  • Researcher Co-I, Innovate UK SMART Grant (2022): 'SMART Bacteriophage Mixes: Sustainable Biocontrol for Onion Soft Rot'
  • PI, Cardiff University's Wellcome Trust funded Institutional Translational Partnership Award - Translational Knowledge Exchange and Training (ITPA TKET) (2022): 'Isolation and characterisation of bacteriophages for biocontrol of the bacterial species Burkholderia gladioli'

Supervision

Past projects

Engagement

Working with clinical and industrial partners

I am enthusiastic about translational research have been fortunate enough to work with both clinical (Dr Julian Forton, Children's Hospital for Wales) and industrial partners (Unilever Research and Development, AlgiPharma AS, GAMA Healthcare, APS Biocontrol, Allium & Brassica Agronomy, P. G. Rix (Farms) LTD).

School and community engagement

I am a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) ambassador and have delivered activites and workshops to primary and secondary school children. I have also delivered a talk about microbiology to a local community group (Llanishen Health Hearts Group, Llanishen Leisure Centre, November 2021).

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) engagement

From October 2021 to February 2022 I led a public engagement project called 'ART LAB: ART of Antimicrobial Resistance' to raise awareness of AMR through blended arts and science activities. The project was funded by an Innovation for All Public Engagement grant and involved collaboration between researchers and staff at Cardiff University, the Creative Cardiff Network and arts and community hubs including Chapter Arts Centre. The engagement activities were also supported by the Microbiology Society, visit my blog article on their website for more information.

I am  a member of the GW4 AMR Alliance, an interdisciplinary research consortium at the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter that aims to tackle the global threat of AMR. 

Supporting Early Career Researchers (ECRs)

I am keen to support other ECRs. I am involved in ECR networks (GW4 AMR Alliance ECR & PGR Network, Cardiff School of Biosciences ECR Network) and have helped to organise ECR events including the GW4 ECR AMR Symposium in 2020. I have written blog posts about different opportunities available to ECRs and how they might benefit from them (e.g. organising conferences, leadership courses and applying for summer studentships).