Project Description

Prof. Rick Lewis

Prof Rick Lewis

Professor of Structural Biology,
Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences,
Newcastle University

Co-Supervisor: Dr. Jon Marles Wright

I am a basic biologist, driven by a desire to understand biological mechanisms on the atomic scale. The prime research tool used by my group is X-ray crystallography, but we also deploy a range of other biophysical techniques to underpin our structural data, including AUC, EM, SEC-MALLS, MST, SPR, ITC, NMR and SAXS. My PhD focused on Escherichia coli DNA gyrase:inhibitor complexes, before I spent six years as a post-doc researching the regulation of sporulation initiation in the Gram positive endospore-forming paradigm, Bacillus subtilis. It was during this time that I became interested in the general stress response of this bacterium, and during the course of establishing my own group we discovered that some of the regulators of sigma B form a supramolecular complex, the stressosome.

I moved to the Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences (ICaMB; in 2003, tasked with establishing macromolecular crystallography in Newcastle University ( There are now seven independent PIs who form the core of the Newcastle Structural Biology Lab (NSBL;, aided and abetted by a Facility Manager, Dr Arnaud Basle.

We are a well-resourced lab, and have recently installed the UK’s first liquid metal jet X-ray generator to support our crystallography (for a potted history of the NSBL, please see: and by the time PATHSENSE commences in the autumn, a robotic sample changer will be installed to permit data collection to proceed in-house along the same lines as we expect on synchrotron beamlines.

My lab currently focuses on how bacterial co-ordinate their growth and division cycles with the necessary changes to their cell wall to permit a cell to divide in half without lysing. However, bacterial stress responses, sigma B and the stressosome are never far from my thoughts, and PATHSENSE provides a fantastic platform to co-ordinate our structural biology efforts with microbiologists, biophysicists, food technologists and others within our consortium to understand, at a molecular level, how stressosomes are activated, by what chemical cues, and whether we can find ways to curtail the virulence of pathogens by targeting the stressosome and the pathways that it regulates in different bacteria.