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Dr Liku Tezera

MD, MSc, PhD

Senior Research Fellow (Anniversary Fellow)

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Dr Liku Tezera is a clinically trained translational researcher in infection and lung disease, primarily focusing on tuberculosis (TB), which kills more people than any other infection after COVID-19. 

He developed cellular models of tuberculosis at Imperial College, then moved to the University of Southampton in 2012 to establish the TB group with Prof Paul Elkington. They developed a novel 3-dimensional model system for studying TB by using an engineering approach to generate in 3-dimensional microspheres. This system provides novel insights into tuberculosis disease pathogenesis, and is a springboard into other fields, such as rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis and cancer cell invasion.

Landmark publications:

1. Reichmann MT, Tezera LB, Vallejo Pulido A, Vukmirovic M, Xiao R, Reynolds J, Jogai S, Wilson S, Marshall B, Jones M, Leslie A, D’Armiento J, Kaminski N, Polak M, Elkington, P. Integrated transcriptomic analysis of human tuberculosis granulomas and a biomimetic model identifies therapeutic targets. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2021 131: 15.

2. Ogongo P, Tezera LB, Ardain A, Nhamoyebonde S, Ramsuran D, Singh A, Ng’oepe A, Karim F, Naidoo T, Khan K, Dullabh KJ, Fehlings M, Lee BH, Nardin A, Lindestam Arlehamn CS, Sette A, Behar SM, Steyn AJC, Madansein R, Kløverpris HN, Elkington PT, Leslie A. Lung resident TB-specific Th17 T-cell are important in the TB immune response in humans. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2021;131(10): e142014.

3. Tezera LB, Bielecka MK, Ogongo P, Walker NF Ellis M, Garay-Baquero DJ, Thomas K, Reichmann MT, Johnston DA, Wilkinson KA, Ahmed M, Jogai S, Jayasinghe SN, Wilkinson RJ, Mansour S, Thomas GJ, Ottensmeier CH, Leslie A, Elkington PT. Anti-PD-1 therapy leads to tuberculosis reactivation via dysregulation of TNF-α. eLife 2020;09: e52668

4. Tezera LB, Bielecka MK, Chancellor A, Reichmann MT, Shammari BA, Brace P, Batty A, Tocheva A, Jogai S, Marshall BG, Tebruegge M, Jayasinghe SN, Mansour S, Elkington PT. Dissection of the host-pathogen interaction in human tuberculosis using a bioengineered 3-dimensional model. eLife 2017; 6: e21283

5. Bielecka MK, Tezera LB, Zmijan R, Drobniewski F, Zhang X, Jayasinghe S, Elkington P. A Bioengineered Three-Dimensional Cell Culture Platform Integrated with Microfluidics To Address Antimicrobial Resistance in Tuberculosis. mBio 2017; 8(1): e02073-16

Major grants:

  • Named Researcher Co-Investigator, Project Grant, MRC (2022 - 2025) (£770,000)

  • Career Track Award. Research Management Committee, University of Southampton (2017) (£94,879)

  • Wessex Medical Research Innovation Grant (2017) (£19,000)

  • NC3Rs: Pilot Study grant NC/L001039/1 (2014) (£75,000)

  • Contributed to securing ~£2,500,000 funds for Southampton TB research group from NIH-USA, MRC (x3) and Rosetrees for the years 2012-2019

Impact example:

Dr Tezera developed the bioelectrospray 3D cell culture model for Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection (Adv Func Materials), which plays a critical role in understanding the underlying mechanisms involved in the immunopathology of Mtb infection. 

The central role of extracellular matrix and 3-dimensional (3D) cellular organisation is emerging in the cancer field but is understudied in other diseases. Their system is highly tractable and permits systematic investigation of multiple variables such as matrix and cellular composition. Insights from the model include an alternative hypothesis about human TB pathology, whereby lung matrix destruction precedes cell death (J Inf Dis). Moreover, he has used it to systematically interrogate the host-pathogen interaction (eLife), model antibiotic concentrations (mBio) and study new therapies (Clin Inf Dis). The potential of the model for the field has been extensively commented upon (eg Trends Microbiol, PLOS Path) and he has demonstrated the potential of integrating bioengineering techniques with cell biology to investigate human disease. His recent work on the PD-1/PDL1 axis demonstrates that PD-1 inhibition increases Mtb proliferation (eLife), further validating the translational potential of the system. Moreover, his team have shown that events in 3D reflect events in patients more accurately than 2D (JCI(I)), and that protective immunity can be dissected (JCI(II)). Critically, this has led to a successful phase II clinical trial of new treatment to reduce lung destruction in TB (JCI III), emerging from their basic science research. He has made significant contributions to successful grant applications to the MRC, NC3Rs and NIH-USA and plan further applications both individually and collaboratively in the future. A recent MRC project grant award as researcher coinvestigator is an exemplar, adding to the total of >£2 million won by the TB group of the University of Southampton that he has been integral to.

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