James Barnacle

James Barnacle

James Barnacle

James Barnacle, 2022 intake Crick doctoral clinical fellow, Robert Wilkinson’s lab

I studied medicine at Cardiff University where I spent a student selected module investigating ageing pathways in progeroid syndromes before intercalating in Global Health at King’s College London. I had developed an interest in infectious diseases following an elective in Sierra Leone. After my foundation training in London and New Zealand, I completed the Diploma of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Liverpool and spent a year working in Lilongwe, Malawi.

My experience here so far has surpassed my expectations and I have found it an incredibly inspiring and supportive atmosphere.

I came back to North-West London as an Infectious Diseases trainee and consolidated an interest in tuberculosis working in Ealing and Northwick Park Hospitals, which serve areas with some of the highest rates of tuberculosis in Western Europe.

Tuberculosis remains the leading infectious cause of death worldwide and its most severe form, tuberculous meningitis, carries an unacceptable mortality even with gold standard treatment in part because of a dysregulated immune response. The Imperial College London project proposed by my primary supervisor, Robert Wilkinson, to use single-cell transcriptomics to better understand this immune response, was the perfect opportunity to develop basic science knowledge that could be translated into improved patient outcomes in the future.

As well as the project, the doctoral clinical fellowship at the Crick appealed to me because of the integrated funding and the unparalleled Crick facilities. My experience here so far has surpassed my expectations and I have found it an incredibly inspiring and supportive atmosphere.

My initial focus in the Wilkinson lab is using single-cell RNA sequencing of CSF samples to understand the immune signature in tuberculous meningitis and correlates of severity. It has been a steep learning curve involving training in cell handling, molecular techniques, sequencing, data analysis and higher containment level biosafety, supported by the science technology platforms and group colleagues.

I hope that the transferable skills I gain in the burgeoning fields of transcriptomics and genomics will equip me for a future career as a clinical academic, and that I will be able to translate our growing understanding of our immune response to tuberculosis into adjunctive therapies.