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Professor Philip Butcher

Professor of Molecular Medical Microbiology

Professor Butcher’s main research interest is the bacterial pathogen, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the cause of human tuberculosis (TB). He brings expertise in pathogen genomics and molecular microbiology to multiple collaborative research projects: human trials for new TB drugs, improved diagnostic tests for TB, understanding the genetic basis of multi-drug resistant TB and studies the fundamental pathogenic processes of infection. He has a wide teaching remit covering microbiology, infection, antibiotics, vaccines, pathogen genomics and global health diseases delivered across the scientific and medical curricula at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.  

Professor Butcher gained his PhD in comparative molecular haematology, studying sickle cell disease, obtained at the Institute of Zoology, London Zoo in 1980. He then continued his career in molecular biology research with postdoctoral positions at King's College London in the Department of Biochemistry studying globin gene expression in bone marrow cells; at St George’s Hospital Medical School in Academic surgery studying the molecular aetiology of human Crohn's disease; and at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School working in the Department of Gastroenterology on the parasite Giardia lamblia. He returned to St George's in 1989 as an academic lecturer in medical microbiology and held a number of academic positions developing his research interests in tuberculosis, leading to appointment of Professor of Molecular Medical Microbiology in 2003. His research remains on TB.

Professor Butcher studies the bacterial pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb), the cause of human tuberculosis by looking at the interactions between pathogen and host, analysing their DNA genome and expression of their genes under different environments. Understanding how M.tb survives inside macrophages and the mechanisms involved in blocking phago-lysosome fusion.  In this way, he is improving our knowledge of why bacteria cause disease. Analysing gene expression patterns in organisms recovered from sputum of people with TB reveals a novel metabolic persister phenotype showing drug tolerance, accounting for the prolonged requirement of 6 months for standard TB antibiotic treatment.

He is also using whole genome sequencing (WGS) to interrogate treatment failures and re-infections for an international clinical trial for new antibiotic combinations in the RIFASHORT trial. He is also involved in a commercial project with a UK based company, QuantuMDx, to develop a new point-of-care diagnostic test for TB.

In partnership with the Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Units at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust he has pioneered the use of whole genome sequencing to genotypically predict the antibiotic resistance profiles of M.tuberculosis, thereby allowing appropriate selection of antibiotic combinations to treat extremely drug resistant cases of TB (XDRTB). This WGS work also led to genome -based molecular epidemiology of TB cases to inform infection control actions.

Collaborative research and development of novel point-of-care diagnostic and antibiotic resistance tests for TB with the UK based commercial company QuantuMDx, initially funded by Innovate UK from 2013 – 2016 and now directly funded through a Master Service Agreement between St George’s and QuantuMDx. 

MRC.  A collaboration between Leicester University and St George’s – “Determining the persister populations in sputum during tuberculosis therapy. A supplementary study to the RIFASHORT international human TB drug trial (P.I. Dr Amina Jindani)   2016 - 2021

Module lead: Genomics for Infectious Diseases - MSc in Genomic Medicine

Module Co-lead: Global Health Disease – BSc/iBSc and MSc module in Global Health

Co-module lead for Life Protection in MBBS4/5.

Lectures on infection related topics at undergraduate and postgraduate level, including: microbiology and diagnostics, infection, immune responses, antibiotics and antibiotic resistance, vaccines, pathogen genomics and global health diseases to MBBS4/5 medicine, Biomedical Sciences BSc/iBSc, Physician Associate, Healthcare Sciences, Paramedic Sciences pathway, Clinical Pharmacology BSc and MSc Global Health.

Primary and co-supervisor for PhD and MSc project students

Personal tutor for Biomedical Science BSc and MSc Global Health students

Member: St George’s Research Degrees Committee

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