Grace Blackwell

Grace Blackwell

Position: ESPOD Fellow

Department: EMBL-EBI, Wellcome Sanger Institute

Keywords: Microbiology, genomics, mobile genetic elements, plasmids, antibiotic resistance

I am especially interested in elements that are involved in the spread of antimicrobial resistance genes. These include transposons that are able to move within a cell and plasmids that are able to transfer between different bacterial cells.

I started my research career at the University of Sydney, Australia, under Professor Ruth Hall, where I studied the evolution of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in a problematic hospital pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii. During my PhD, I became especially interested in elements that are involved in the spread of AMR genes. These include transposons that are able to move within a cell and plasmids that are able to transfer between different bacterial cells. I came to Cambridge as an ESPOD fellow, undertaking a joint project between EMBL-EBI with Dr Zamin Iqbal and the Wellcome Sanger Institute with Dr Nick Thomson. Here, I was able to continue my study of mobility of AMR genes, but across all bacteria rather than within a single species. To do this, I have assembled a uniform dataset of over 661K bacterial genomes from the public databases. All of the assemblies have undergone general characterisation and a searchable index has been constructed. This dataset will allow me to explore the distribution and host range of transposons and plasmids on an unparalleled scale. A resource of this dataset has also been released to the community and will likely support a wide range of future studies. In addition, I also have an interest understanding how the carriers of AMR genes have changed over time and have been sequencing a collection of plasmids that were isolated from the 1960-1990s. Comparisons between these and contemporary plasmids could glean insights into how plasmids have evolved and changed to be the effective disseminators of AMR that they are today.

Get in touch: gblackwell [at] ebi.ac.uk or @graceblackwel1 on Twitter