Prof Barrie Wilkinson

Project Leader
Molecular Microbiology

Barrie researches the discovery and biosynthesis of microbial natural products.

He is particularly interested in identifying new compounds with antibiotic and antifungal properties, and in characterising the biosynthetic pathways and biochemical mechanisms by which they are made.

Barrie’s research involves investigating the targets for these compounds and elucidating their mode of action.

This research generates new therapeutic compounds whilst providing a deeper understanding of the evolution of molecular diversity.

  • Identification of microbial natural products and targets
  • Understanding the mode of action of therapeutic compounds
  • Characterising biosynthetic pathways 


Natural products produced by bacteria and fungi represent a major source of antibiotic and anticancer pharmaceuticals for the treatment of life threatening disease. They are important as immunosuppressant agents after transplant surgery, as drugs for the treatment of parasitic diseases, and as environmentally benign insecticides for use in crop protection.

The research in their group is focussed on identifying the pathways that bacteria use for the biosynthesis of these compounds and understanding the unusual biochemical mechanisms involved in their assembly. They have particular interest in natural products with utility for the treatment of drug resistant bacteria, fungi and viruses which represent immediate and alarming public health threats.

The group aims to better understand and then mimic how nature evolves the genes responsible for the amazing diversity of structures observed in natural product chemical space. In so doing they aspire to develop new methods and tools in order to improve access to valuable yet difficult to produce natural products, and to bioengineer new derivatives with improved activity, selectivity and biophysical properties for application as pharmaceuticals and crop protection agents.

Additionally, they are investigating the molecular targets of antibacterial natural products and the mechanisms by which they exert their biological activity.


Tel: 01603 450991

Deadly behaviour-modifying chemical weapon identified in insect-world arms race

read more

John Innes Centre researcher wins prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry prize

read more

Landmark discovery turns marathon of evolution into a sprint

read more

New antibiotic from bacteria found on an ant could beat MRSA

read more

Recent Publications

Worsley S. F., Innocent T. M., Heine D., Murrell J. C., Yu D. W., Wilkinson B., Hutchings M. I., Boomsba J. J., Holmes N. A. (2018)

Symbiotic partnerships and their chemical interactions in the leafcutter ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

Myrmecological News 27 p59-74

Publisher’s version: n

Heine D., Holmes N. A., Worsley S. F., Santos A. C. A., Innocent T. M., Scherlach K., Patrick E. H., Yu D. W., Murrell J. C., Vieria P. C., Boomsma J. J., Hertweck C., Hutchings M. I., Wilkinson B. (2018)

Chemical warfare between leafcutter ant symbionts and a co-evolved pathogen.

Nature communications 9 p2208

Publisher’s version: 10.1038/s41467-018-04520-1

Holmes N. A., Devine R., Qin Z., Seipke R. F., Wilkinson B., Hutchings M. I. (2017)

Complete genome sequence of Streptomyces formicae KY5, the formicamycin producer.

Journal of Biotechnology 265 p116-118

Publisher’s version: 10.1016/j.jbiotec.2017.11.011

Wlodek A., Kendrew S. G., Coates N. J., Hold A., Pogwizd J., Rudder S., Sheehan L. S., Higginbotham S. J., Stanley-Smith A. E., Warneck T., Nur-E-Alam M., Radzom M., Martin C. J., Overvoorde L., Samborskyy M., Alt S., Heine D., Carter G. T., Graziani E. I., Koehn F. E., McDonald L., Alanine A., Rodríguez Sarmiento R. M., Chao S. K., Ratni H., Steward L., Norville I. H., Sarkar-Tyson M., Moss S. J., Leadlay P. F., Wilkinson B., Gregory M. A. (2017)

Diversity oriented biosynthesis via accelerated evolution of modular gene clusters.

Nature communications 8 p1206

Publisher’s version: 10.1038/s41467-017-01344-3

Som N. F., Heine D., Holmes N., Knowles F., Chandra G., Seipke R. F., Hoskisson P. A., Wilkinson B., Hutchings M. I. (2017)

The MtrAB two-component system controls antibiotic production in Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2).

Microbiology (Reading, England) 163 p1415-1419

Publisher’s version: 10.1099/mic.0.000524

View All

Barrie Wilkinson

  • Dr Silke Alt Research Associate
  • Dr Siobhan Dorai-Raj Research Fellow
  • Dr Juan-Pablo Gomez-Escribano Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Dr Daniel Heine Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Dr Zhiwei Qin Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Dr David Widdick Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Thomas Booth Postgraduate Student
  • Eleni Vikeli Postgraduate Student


For media enquiries, please contact the JIC communications team 01603 450962,

JIC Cookie Policy. We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. By clicking any link on this page you are giving your consent for us to set cookies. You can find out more about the cookies by clicking here.

Accept cookies