CMM Annual 'Sir Anthony Epstein' Lecture

The Sir Anthony Epstein lecture was inaugurated at the University of Bristol in 2009 to recognise the achievements of outstanding scientists in the fields of cancer biology, infection and immunology. It celebrates the achievements of Sir Anthony Epstein who was Professor of Pathology at Bristol University (1968-85) and one of the discoverers of the Epstein-Barr virus.

Professor Sharon Peacock, CBE, FMedSci, University of Cambridge and Public Health England

Journey with an Outbreak Detective: Destination - the genomics revolution

Thursday 7 November 2019 at 17:00.  The lecture is followed by a drinks reception at 18:00

You can book your place for this free event at EventBrite. All staff, students and members of the public are welcome.


The standard way to detect and investigate outbreaks of infectious diseases was first developed more than 150 years ago. This depends on ‘shoe leather detectives’ who meticulously collect and piece together all of the available information on possible links between cases so as to identify the suspected cause of the outbreak – be that contaminated food or water, or the spread of an infectious agent from person-to-person. But the stage is set for a major change in practice. The genomics revolution that has taken hold over the last decade has provided the technology to replace this with ‘genome detectives.’ The process starts with routine sequencing of bacteria that are known to cause outbreaks (such as MRSA) after which their genomes are compared to determine how closely related they are, a ‘Sequence First’ approach. Those isolates that are highly related are then investigated rapidly to bring an outbreak to a close while those that are not can be ignored, saving time from false alarms. In this talk, I will describe the science behind this revolution and the steps we are taking to bring this innovation into routine use for the benefit of patients and public health.


Professor Sharon Peacock is Director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England, Professor of Public Health and Microbiology at the University of Cambridge, and an honorary consultant microbiologist at the Cambridge clinical and public health laboratory based at Addenbrookes Hospital.  She has been a Non-Executive Director at the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust since 2015, where she is chair of the Quality Committee and a member of the Board and Audit Committees.  Sharon has worked as an academic microbiology in the United Kingdom and South East Asia for the last 25 years, during which she has trained 22 PhD students, published more than 400 scientific articles and book chapters, and currently manages >£9M of funding as PI.

Her research group work on pathogen sequencing in relation to diagnostic and public health microbiology and antimicrobial resistance.  Particular interests are the implementation of sequencing technologies into routine clinical practice to inform and improve infection control practice and prevent nosocomial infection; and characterization of the genetic relatedness and transmission of pathogenic bacteria in different reservoirs, including humans, livestock and the food chain, and sewage. Her group increasingly use big data approaches to define the biological processes of host-pathogen interactions; for example, a Wellcome Collaborative Award is currently supporting a project to explore the biological basis of human Staphylococcus aureus carriage.

Sharon is an independent advisor to the Wellcome Drug Resistant Infection programme and chairs the Board of the Wellcome Surveillance and Epidemiology of Drug Resistant Infections Consortium (SEDRIC).  She has extensive funding panel and grant review experience.  This includes the MRC (e.g. member and then deputy chair, Infection and Immunity Board; chair, Antimicrobial Resistance Initiative funding panel theme 1); and the Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust (current chair).  Sharon also has extensive experience of advisory boards, including the Francis Crick Translational Advisory Group; the MRC Steering Group on Research Challenges in Antimicrobial Resistance; and the Chief Medical Officer Advisory Group for Volume II of CMO Annual Report (Genomics).  Sharon is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Medical Sciences, an elected Member of EMBO, and an NIHR Senior Investigator.

She was awarded a CBE for services to medical microbiology in 2015, and the Unilever Colworth Prize in 2018 for outstanding contribution to translational microbiology.  Beyond microbiology, Sharon has a degree in History and has a long-standing interest in music, which most recently has focused on the choral tradition. She is married with three children.

You can find further details about the speaker at the University of Cambridge.

You can book your place for this free event at EventBrite. All staff, students and members of the public are welcome.


Previous speakers:

Professor Sharon Peacock
Professor Sharon Peacock, CBE, FMedSci
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