Prof Robert Read, theme lead for microbial science

RobReadProfessor Read is director of the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre and theme lead for microbial science, conducting research into infectious diseases, with a particular focus on meningitis and influenza.


Professor Read is director of the NIHR Southampton Respiratory Biomedical Research Centre, with considerable expertise in the factors that enable bacterial colonisation and disease progression. Using human tissue and cell culture models, as well as controlled infection in study participants, he is investigating new ways to prevent and treat respiratory infections.   

World renowned

Professor Read is a world renowned academic infectious disease physician with more than 25 years of experience in research. He is Professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Southampton, Head of Academic Unit of Clinical & Experimental Sciences, and Honorary Consultant Physician to University Hospital Southampton. He was appointed Chair of Infectious Diseases in 2012, following 17 years as Professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Sheffield (2001-2012).

He has made major international contributions in infectious diseases research, translation and policy, reflected in his role as Chair of the European Society for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Science Committee (2009-2012) and election to their Executive Council (2005-2012).

He was elected a Fellow of the Infectious Disease Society of America in 2008, and their board of directors nominated him to deliver the 2016 Max Finland Award Lecture, the first non-American to receive this honour.

Translating research into policy, he has co-authored three pan-European Clinical Practice Guidelines; the European Respiratory Society (ERS) Lower Respiratory Tract Infection Guidelines (2010), the ERS Hospital Acquired Pneumonia Guidelines (2016) and the ESGIB/ESCMID Bacterial Meningitis Guidelines (2016).

Improving clinical practice

Read’s work covers basic science and translation, ranging from molecular pathogenesis, genomics and epidemiology to clinical trials of vaccines and therapeutics, with a common theme of the prevention of lethal infectious disease.

He was a founding member of the 2009 Department of Health Influenza Clinical Infection Network (Flu-CIN), which coordinated a national research response to the 2009 influenza pandemic and translated the findings into clinical practice guidelines for hospital and family doctors.

His knowledge of meningococcal, influenza and pneumococcal disease, as well as his clinical trials expertise, led to membership of the UK Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (2013-2016) and expert advisory groups for the European Medicines Agency (2011-2016) and Commission on Human Medicines (2008-2014).

He has contributed to the NIHR research portfolio by chairing the National Infectious Disease and Microbiology Specialty Group for the NIHR Clinical Research Network (2010-2015), to NIHR academic training as Chair of the Postdoctoral Fellowships panel (2011-2016) and by membership of the NIHR Faculty Trainees Advisory Panel.

Advancing respiratory research

He has made important discoveries relating to the molecular genetics and mechanisms of sepsis and the role of bacterial genomic load in outcomes of meningococcal disease. His scientific activities have included developing models of airway colonisation by respiratory tract pathogens and techniques to measure intracellular processing of live pathogens by human primary macrophages.

He has led research reported in international scientific journals, with over 200 peer reviewed papers and 23 books or major book chapters, and has an H index of 46. Over his career, he has attracted £20m in research funding from diverse sources including EU, MRC, Wellcome Trust, NIHR, EPSRC, Department of Health, meningitis charities and industry. His scholarship has been acknowledged by his appointment as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Infection (2005-2016) and of Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases (2011-2016).

Much of his research has focused on the mechanisms of bacterial colonisation of the upper respiratory tract. He has run phase 1 studies of novel vaccines and adjuvants for prevention of influenza and meningitis, shown vaccination of humans with outer membrane vesicles of N.lactamica to be immunogenic and safe, demonstrated N.lactamica intranasal bacterial therapy can displace meningococcal colonisation, and has shown mucosal influenza vaccine efficacy can be enhanced with an excipient.

In 2015-16, he received Experimental Medicine MRC funding to develop genetically modified strains of N.lactamica for early phase studies of microbiome modification of the nasopharynx.