Timesh Pillay

Timesh

Timesh Pillay

Timesh Pillay, 2021 intake Crick doctoral clinical fellow, Katrin Rittinger’s lab

I'm a respiratory doctor (ST4 level) in London and a PhD student at the Francis Crick Institute (Katrin Rittinger's lab) and Imperial College London (Teresa Thurston's lab).

I'm interested in how infectious diseases occur. This includes who suffers from them globally; how an infectious agent enters the human body and transmits to the next; which part of the body is affected; why some people exposed to an infectious agent get ill while others don’t; what human cells are most important in the infection process; and what happens between bacterial and human proteins within one cell.

I was attracted to the Crick clinical doctorate program due to the institute’s reputation for high quality science and its collaborative scientific culture. 

After medical and clinical research training in London hospitals before and during the SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 pandemic, I was attracted to the Crick clinical doctorate program due to the institute’s reputation for high quality science and its collaborative scientific culture. 

My current infectious agent of interest, Salmonella enterica, causes disease of the gut and blood stream. It typically causes a diarrhoeal illness but can cause more severe invasive disease which kills 75,000 people each year. Salmonella enterica is an intracellular bacterium i.e. it survives within human cells. One way it achieves this is with a needle-like ‘type 3 secretion system’ that it uses to transfer its own effector proteins across its membrane into the human cell. These proteins are able to manipulate the host environment to survive and replicate. 

In the Rittinger lab, we use techniques to determine the 3D shape of individual molecules that are too small to be seen with a microscope. This can help to understand how Salmonella proteins are able to manipulate their host environment. In the Thurston lab, we observe the knock-on effects of our particular molecules of interest on the human cells that they are within. Sometimes we infect human cells with whole Salmonella bacteria in a safely contained laboratory and observe the effect over time using microscope techniques.

As hoped, my current position is developing my skills in laboratory science, which will prepare me to tackle the future challenges that infectious diseases pose to our health and wellbeing. I look forward to uniting my clinical and academic interests with future study of infectious diseases that affect the lungs, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis.