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Dr Rod Dillon

Senior Lecturer

Rod Dillon


Tel: +44 1524 594845

Research overview

Leishmania - sand fly interactions; functional genomics of insect vectors of medically important diseases; sand fly genome sequencing project; digestive physiology of bloodsucking insects; insect microbiology; microbial symbiosis; microbial ecology; insects and emerging infectious disease; natural antimicrobial systems and insects. Public engagement activities includes working with DIYBio maker communities, Bioscience research and art.

PhD supervision

Microbiology, immunology and parasitology of insects; Phlebotomine sand flies and transmission of Leishmania. Microbial ecology of insects.

Current Research

Current projects in my laboratory include:

  • A Drosophila-Herpetomonas model as a blueprint to study Leishmania infection in phlebotomine sand flies. BBSRC funded collaboration with Dr Petros Ligoxygakis University of Oxford.
  • Sandfly- Leishmania interactions and gut epithelial immunity. PhD project with Taylor Lura.
  • Special Visiting Researcher; Brazil, Science without Borders Programme. Three year collaboration with Prof Fernando Genta IOC/Fiocruz, Rio de Janeiro. Funded by Brazilian agency CNPq.
  • Lutzomyia longipalpis genome sequencing and annotation. Ongoing collaborative project including partners at Vectorbase and the University of Notre Dame, USA.
  • Transmission biology of leishmaniasis in Ghana. Leverhulme Trust funded project led by Prof Paul Bates.

Research Interests

Leading a research group studying the role of Phlebotomine sand flies as transmitters of the medically important parasite Leishmania.  Leishmaniasis is a neglected disease found in 88 countries worldwide with over 12 million cases and 2 million new cases every year. We are using DNA technologies including gene silencing to research the interactions between the Leishmania parasite and its  blood sucking sand fly host. Research spans all aspects from lab to field work. Research includes Brazilian funded collaborative work with labs in Brazil. Our strain of Lutzomyia longipalpis  was used to sequence the sand fly genome with scientists in Baylor College Texas, the genome sequence is now available and we are nearing the end of the annotation process. Main aim of my work is to discover new ways of disrupting transmission of this insect–borne disease.

Current Teaching

I teach on the following modules.

  • BIOL122 Impact of Microbes. Module Organiser. Lectures on prokaryotes and protists; bacteriology and protist practical sessions.
  • BIOL322 Tropical Diseases. Module Organiser. Lectures on insect vector biology, arboviruses, haemorrhagic fevers, HIV/tuberculosis, filariasis, ectoparasites. West Nile virus outbreak workshop.
  • BIOL274 Methods in Microbiology. The art of microbiology.
  • BIOL387/BIOL386 Bioscience Research Project: student projects on Leishmania-bacterial interactions, osmotaxis.
  • BIOL390 Bioscience Literature Review: liverature reviews on entomology, parasitology and microbiology.
  • BIOL469 Masters in Science Research Project: sand fly biology
  • PHYS120  The Universe as Art: Synthetic Biology
  • GEOG219/391 Multispecies geographies. Workshop.

Additional Information

I am also funded by the Sir John Fisher Foundation.

I have been working on art/science collaborations for the past five years; see my personal blog and twitter @sandflyman Working with a number of artists including Wellcome Trust funded artist Gina Czarnecki to develop new art work based on biomedical research and exploring the ethics of using human tissue for art. Also collaborating in a cross disciplinary network of artists, scientists and health practitioners dedicated to combining creative research and learning in life sciences and the arts. 

Working with DIYBio communities particularly DIYBio Manchester Group  based at MADLAB Manchester

I managed an interdisciplinary EPSRC Catalyst research project called Patchworks.  The project explores how homeless people might co-design a prototype tool using cheap, open source technology that improve health and wellbeing.

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