Co-Founding SPPIRIT a network for Scottish Parasitology Researchers

In late 2022, Juan Quintana approached a few PIs about how we could better collaborate across institutes. At the same time, Lilach Sheiner saw some funding opportunities for building collaborative academic research networks… and so we started to discuss how we could better support collaborations between the parasitology groups in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Dundee.

Thus SPPIRIT was born! Mattie, Lilach, and Sarah Reece co-founded the Scottish Parasitology Partnership in Innovation, Research, and Training.



We had our kick-off event in March 2022 in Glasgow (100+ participants):

We’ve hosted a workshop on writing a fellowship application (small group of about 12 attendees hosted by 2 successful PDRA fellows and 2 senior PIs):

We hosted a virtual “idea pitching session” for applicants to a SULSA funding call:

SPPIRT organised and chaired a session at the most recent IDRIS meeting, highlighting posters presenters that are ECRs:

And we sponsored 3 ECRs to attend a lab leadership training course hosted by the Royal Society of Biology.

SPPIRIT is also planning to host 2 sessions at the 2023 British Society for Parasitology Annual Spring Meeting in Edinburgh.

To get involved and to hear about upcoming events, you can sign-up to our slack channel (, follow SPPIRIT on twitter, check the website for regular updates, or subscribe to our newsletter:

2023 Spring Activities

Grant has almost finished our first in-house library screen against our transgenic Cryptosporidium (I think just 8 compound plates left!). Over his first semester in the lab he learned how to use the DDU database (dotmatics), high-throughput instrumentation, helped with a new TPP experiment, and performed several follow-up drug assays for our drug discovery collaborators.

He received an MRC Student supplement grant to travel to visit our collaborators in the Thorne lab in March to learn how to grow human intestinal organoids in 384 well plates!

Grant working on his high-throughput screen.

Flora applied to the EASTBio PhD programme and was accepted! She will join Dr. Joanna Young’s lab, and will work in collaboration with Dr. Nisha Philip and Prof. Joanne Thompson. Flora was an Honours student, turned summer laboratory technician, turned Integrated Masters Student! We are proud of her and can’t wait to hear about her project at future parasitology conferences.

Treats from the Newport Bakery in the office to celebrate!

Mattie gave a talk and Flora gave a poster presentation at the 5th Infectious Disease Research Initiative Scotland (IDRIS) hosted by University of Edinburgh. SPPIRIT also hosted a session of flash-talks from ECRs. It was great to reconnect with the great parasitology network across Scotland! The last IDRIS meeting was hosted in Dundee and organised by Mattie and Prof David Horn with support from WCAIR.

Dr. Joana Faria invited Mattie to give a seminar at the University of York. It was great to get a tour of their fantastic facilities (super impressive!), get to talk with other PIs and postdocs about their research, and share a bit of our most recent discoveries on Cryptosporidium. After covid and then maternity leave, it was great to get to travel again! Looking forward to staying in touch and making many future trips to York đŸ™‚

Simona had the opportunity to make a trip home to New Zealand, and among her adventures got to reunite with her dog, Belle.

We are hard at work post-viva turning thesis into manuscripts… stay tuned for the first rounds of papers from the Pawlowic Lab coming soon!

Congrats to Dr. Jack Hanna- 3rd Pawlowic lab PhD!

On January 31st, Jack Hanna had his PhD viva. Thanks to Prof Chris Huston for serving as external examiner, Prof Marcus Lee (the newest member of our division) for serving as internal examiner, and Prof David Horn for acting as convenor.

The day before Prof. Chris Huston gave a great seminar about his work to optimise MMV665917 and also identify the molecular target and the compound’s mode of action. Thanks for the stimulating ideas and discussion!

While he was here, we also held our end-of-project meeting for the Lead Optimisation program for CpKRS. Chris’ lab carried out a lot of the in vitro and in vivo work for the project. It has been great collaborating with his group and the DDU on this project. Me and the lab have learned a lot about cryptsporidiosis drug discovery first hand!

Family-sized dosa for dinner the night before Jack’s viva!

Jack was supported by the MRC DTP programme and co-supervised by Dr. Susan Wyllie. He did a great job setting up mode of action tools for Cryptosporidium. This includes thermal proteome profiling and genetic tools. He set these up using lysyl-tRNA synthetase (CpKRS) as a target-compound pair to establish new methodologies.

Thanks to Beatriz Baragana and the Apicomplexan Portfolio Team and the Lead Op team for their help (Nicola Caldwell, Malcolm Tayor, Ian Gilbert, Kevin Read, in vivo Team). And thanks to Victor Corpas-Lopez and Simona Seizova for their help.

Jack giving his viva presentation!
Examiners, Jack, and supervisors.
Current Pawlowic Lab! (and Susan)

Jack joined Dr. Clare Harding’s lab at the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Parasitology at the University of Glasgow as a postdoc soon after his viva. We wish you all the best and look forward to seeing you at future parasitology conferences!

The decorated Mortarboard continues!

Congrats to Dr. Bacchetti- Pawlowic Lab 1st PhD!

Dr Susan Wyllie (Internal Examiner), Dr Ross Bacchetti, Prof Rachel Chalmers (External Examiner)

Thanks to Dr. Susan Wyllie for serving as internal examiner and to Prof Rachel Chalmers for serving as external examiner! Thanks also to Rachel for giving a fascinating seminar the day before Ross’ viva about Cryptosporidium in the UK. It was so insightful to hear how COVID has impacted Cryptosporidium cases, and how Rachel’s group meticulously traces Cryptosporidium during outbreaks to pinpoint the source and stop further transmission.

Ross after official submission of his thesis to be examined
Ross tells us all about Cryptosporidium oocysts during his viva presentation
Proud lab! (left to right Ross, Simona, Jack, Grant)

Dr. Bacchetti leaves us to take up a position with the NHS in the clinical scientist training program. His focus is infectious disease and he starts in Glasgow on October 31st.

We will start working on Ross’ manuscript soon, so hope to share the data with the wider community in the coming year. We are very proud of all his hard work throughout his PhD.

Thanks to the collaborators who helped make Ross’ project so successful:

Dr. Leandro Lemgruber-Soares from the Glasgow Imaging Facility

Prof Massimo Vassalli and his student Mariana Azevedo Gonzalez Oliva at the Cellular Mechanobiology Lab at the University of Glasgow

Emma will have her viva in December, 2022 and Jack in January 2023…

Pawlowic Lab Travels

Beatrice was invited to give a talk at the “What’s New in Cryptosporidium?” conference organised by Prof Rachel Chalmers and Prof Angharad Davies. She presented “lab tools to study Cryptosporidium transmission and advance drug discovery”.

Jack gave a talk about his PhD project at the “Biology of Host-Parasite Interactions: Insights Into the Complex Relationships Between Eukaryotic Parasites and Their Hosts” Gordon Research Conference AND also at the “The Molecular and Cellular Biology of Eukaryotic Infectious Organisms” Gordon Research Seminar.

He shared his work to develop a comprehensive mode-of-action toolkit for Cryptosporidium. This includes adapting thermal proteome profiling for Cryptosporidium, an unbiased method to identify drug targets. This work was done in collaboration with the Mode-of-Action team led by Susan Wyllie.

Parasitology ECRs networking (Jack on far right).

This was also Jack’s first time to the USA! He was lucky enough to sample a Guinness at a Boston bar before his return flight to Dundee. One step closer to enjoying a Guinness on every continent!

Emma attended ICOPA in Copenhagen where she gave a talk about her work establishing organoid co-culture for Cryptosporidium, and presented a poster on her PhD project. Thanks to David Smith for organising the parasites and organoid panel and inviting Emma to speak!

Faith, Emma’s cat, providing essential assistance during conference preparation đŸ™‚

Simona participated in the Bioinformatics Summer School at the University of Glasgow!

Apicomplexan buddies!
Simona in the middle, on the left of the center hand rail.

The PhD students in the lab went for a long weekend together to the Scottish countryside to enjoy some time off together.

Ross, Emma, and Jack at Cawdor Castle
Emma in the gardens surrounding the castle
Group selfie!
Ross has also been teaching Jack all about fishing. The incredibly long Scottish summers mean you can squeeze in a trip to the lake after work.

Beatrice will give a talk at the Molecular Parasitology Meeting in Woods Hole, MA about her project to describe the Cryptosporidium oocyst wall proteome.