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Cambridge Infectious Diseases

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

Studying at Cambridge


Thomas O'Brien

Thomas O'Brien

PhD Student and Research Assistant

Developing an in vitro model for the stable recapitulation of cystic fibrosis associated polymicrobial communities in the lab.

Departments and Institutes


Research Interests

I am currently studying within the laboratory of Dr. Martin Welch and my PhD project aims to develop a continuous-flow, in vitro model which is physiologically representative of the cystic fibrosis airways. Using the model I am able to co-culture the major pathogens associated with the cystic fibrosis (CF) airways that would ordinarily outcompete one another under taditional culture methods. Hence, my model can be used for the real-time tracking of pathogen-pathogen interactions within a robust and highly defined (yet nutritionally and physiologically relevant) model and so we can begin to understand subtle interspecies interactions. My model is currently undergoing refinement to allow the stable recapitulation of the full polymicrobial communities associated with patient airway infections (by inocculating the model directly with sputum samples obtained from CF-patients), in order to study interactions and response to therapeutic interventions in a more clinically relevant setting.


  • Host-Pathogen Interaction
  • Ecology
  • Pathogen Evolution
  • Infection


  • Chronic Infection
  • Staphylococcus aureus


  • NC3Rs
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • in vitro