Professor Peter G. Barlow BSc (Hons) PhD FHEA FRSB is Chair of Immunology and Infection, within the School of Applied Sciences at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland, UK.
Professor Barlow’s research interests lie in studying the human innate immune system with a view to developing novel therapeutics for infections. He is particularly interested in studying the activities of Host Defence Peptides (HDP), principally in the context of viral infections, such as influenza and rhinovirus, as well as the Flaviviridae, Dengue Virus. He recently led a Medical Research Council- funded project investigating HDP as novel therapeutic antivirals for dengue virus infection, and maintains a broad network of collaborators, including with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Host Defence Peptides, also known as antimicrobial peptides, are key components of the immune response. These peptides have been shown to display a broad spectrum of antimicrobial and immunomodulatory activities and, as such, are exciting targets for novel therapeutics.
This work is complemented by his collaborative work with Dr Craig Stevens, looking at novel peptide based therapeutics for the treatment of Crohn’s Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The role of autophagy, dysregulated cell death and the involvement of the cytoskeleton in the host cell response to infection in these inflammatory conditions has yet to be fully elucidated.
Prof. Barlow also has a long-standing interest in the impact of particulate air pollution on the immune system, and was recently part of a Royal Society of Biology Panel submitting evidence for the UK Government Clean Air Strategy. Environmental pollutants such as nanoparticles have been demonstrated to have dramatic pro-inflammatory effects in humans, but the impact of these materials on innate immune responses has yet to be determined.
The concepts of his work can be expanded to broadly include many different types of inflammatory and infectious conditions, but are unified by the common interest in the multiple roles of host defence peptides in the immune response.
External Roles, Research and Strategic Leadership
Professor Barlow demonstrates extensive experience in research leadership, having served as Director/Head of Research for the School of Applied Sciences from January 2015 to August 2021 and leading the School to grow external income by generation by over 400% since this time. He is currently Chair of the Chief Scientist Office Clinical Academic Fellowship funding panel as well as Chair of the NHS Assure Funding Panel. He has previously served as Chair of the British Society for Immunology Inflammation Affinity Group, and on the Executive Committee for the Scottish Universities Life Sciences Association (SULSA) and the Governing Council of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland. He has a strong focus on science and technology innovation, particularly in the Life Sciences, and has undertaken consultancy for a number of businesses, also related to Covid-19, in this respect. He currently sits on the expert advisory panel for Dunedin Solutions Ltd.
Prof Barlow is also a member of Edinburgh Infectious Diseases, the hub for infectious disease research in Edinburgh, and a member of the British Society of Immunology, where he has acted as a media spokesperson. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and previously served as an Editor of the Journal of Medical Microbiology.
Prof. Barlow is passionate about public engagement with science and is Media Spokesperson for the British Society for Immunology. He also writes regularly for The Conversation and undertook a British Science Association Media Fellowship in the summer of 2018 with BBC Scotland.
Speaking about his own work, and the work of others, he has been interviewed by, or had comments published in, a number of outlets including BBC News, Sky News, BBC Radio, Scientific American, ITN News, STV News, Scotland Tonight, BBC Countryfile Winter Diaries, LBC Radio, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Herald, The Scotsman, The Daily Express, The Daily Record, The Edinburgh Evening News, Deadline News, Yahoo News, ABC News (USA), NBC News (USA), CBS News (USA), The Atlanta Journal and Constitution (USA), Washington Post (USA), Fox News (USA), The New York Post (USA), The Associated Press, Agence France Presse, Newsweek, The Scientist, Voice of America News (USA, France) and in online platforms The Huffington Post & IFL Science.
He has reviewed research funding applications for UKRI (MRC, BBSRC, EPSRC, CSO) as well as La Caixa, UKIERI, The Royal Society / Academy of Medical Sciences, Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.
Peter graduated with a PhD from Edinburgh Napier in 2004 with a thesis that examined the effects of nanoparticles on macrophage mediated clearance mechanisms in the lungs, under the direction of Prof. Vicki Stone. In 2005, he took up a post in the MRC / University of Edinburgh Centre for Inflammation Research to work in the laboratory of Dr. Donald Davidson as part of the Lung Inflammation Group. It was in this role that he developed an interest in the immunomodulatory activities of Cationic Host Defence Peptides (CHDP) and the ways in which they could influence cell death pathways in the context of acute infection and inflammation.
In 2009, Peter moved to the United States, where he worked within the Influenza Division of the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. In CDC he developed expertise in handling highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses and took part in the global response to the 2009 novel H1N1 pandemic. He also developed his own program of research relating to the antiviral activities of CHDP on influenza viruses. In June 2011, Peter returned to Edinburgh to take up the post of Lecturer and Principal Investigator in Immunotoxicology at Edinburgh Napier University. In October 2013, Peter was awarded a University Readership and in January 2015 was appointed Director of Research for the School of Life, Sport and Social Sciences (now called the School of Applied Sciences). In August 2017 he was awarded the title of Associate Professor and promoted to Professor in August 2019.