An illuminating visit with Dr Elizabeth Ballou

An illuminating visit with Dr Elizabeth Ballou

On 11 July, 2022 Lister Prize Fellow Dr Elizabeth Ballou welcomed our Chair John Iredale and Director Sally Burtles to a celebratory event at the University of Exeter’s Medical Research Council Centre for Medical Mycology (MRC CMM). Elizabeth was formally presented with the Lister Prize and shared an update on her research with the assembled guests.

Elizabeth is a fungal geneticist and cell biologist based at the MRC CMM. Her research group investigates disease caused by fungal pathogens in humans, in particular the rare but serious condition mucormycosis.

Proceedings began with a welcome from the university’s Head of Biosciences Professor James Wakefield, and an introductory speech from Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact Professor Neil Gow.

Picture by Jim Wileman – Liz Ballou’s 2022 Lister Institute Fellowship Prize Presentation

Elizabeth then gave a talk on her team’s latest research into mucormycosis, which is caused by the soil-dwelling fungus Rhizopus microsporus. This pathogen forms an endosymbiotic relationship with the bacterium Ralstonia in order to evade the immune system during infections.

Elizabeth outlined the RhizopusRalstonia relationship and further explained how fungal-bacterial dynamics can increase the seriousness of infection. By interacting with bacteria in the soil, it seems Rhizopus increases its resistance to stress and becomes more damaging to those it infects.

With further research, this symbiotic relationship could present a therapeutic target for treatment, lowering the stress resistance of the fungus and offering hope for patients affected by the disease.

“It is a pleasure to be able to share my team’s work with the community and to have a chance to celebrate with you all,” Elizabeth said.

The presentation was followed by a drinks reception and the opportunity for a tour of the laboratory facilities for those in attendance.

Describing the impact the Lister Prize would have on future research, Elizabeth said: “The funds will support my team’s research and enable our mission to raise awareness and research capacity for these fascinating but devastating organisms.”

Find out more about Elizabeth’s work here

Professor Sallie Lamb, Professor Neil Gow, Sally Burtles, Dr Elizabeth Ballou, Professor James Wakefield, Professor John Iredale.