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Meet our team

The Institute is strategically run and managed by a Senior Leadership Board (SLB) which comprises of three Directors that are overseen by the Institute Director and CEO Prof Bryan Charleston. Together the SLB provides expertise and knowledge to ensure the organisation evolves and continues to operate at the forefront of scientific research, vaccinology and diagnostics and surveillance to control and contain viral diseases of livestock and those that spread from farm animals to people.

Prof Bryan Charleston MRCVS, Institute Director

Dr Bryan CharlestonProf Charleston obtained a BVetMed from the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, UK in 1982. After a period of time in Large Animal Practice, studied for a Masters degree in Molecular Biology at University College London in 1988, then a PhD degree, as a Wellcome Trust Scholar, from the University of London, UK, in 1991. He then carried out postdoctoral research, as a Wellcome Trust Post-doctoral fellow, at the Royal Veterinary College and the Babraham Institute, Cambridge for three years.

He joined The Pirbright Institute (formally known as the Institute for Animal Health) in 1994 and focused on studies of the immune response to viral infections in cattle. In addition, he has provided advice on studies of the immune response to viral infections in cattle. In addition, he has provided advice and expertise on the design of infectious disease challenge models for a wide range of pathogens in important agricultural species.  His research group’s efforts are focused on understanding the immune response to foot-and–mouth disease virus in cattle to develop novel vaccines.

Dr Michael Johnson BSc(Hons) MBA PhD, Director of Capability

Dr Michael Johnson Michael Johnson moved to the UK in 2008 to The Pirbright Institute and he has fulfilled several roles including Head of The Pirbright Laboratory and Head of Estates. Currently he is Director of Capability which includes Estate Management Services, Animal and Research Services and is the Senior Responsible Owner for the Institutes’ Development Programme. The Plowright Building, a £135M new high containment laboratory, was completed in 2014 and occupied by staff in early 2015. The Jenner Building was completed in 2015 and occupied by staff in early 2016. There are other facilities in design and The Pirbright Institute has a Master Plan for future development on the site. Michael sits on the UK High Containment Laboratory Co-ordinating Committee, established by the Prime Ministers Cabinet Office.

Michael previously worked for 14 years in the CSIRO CL4 high containment facility in Geelong, Australia, as a senior principal researcher into swine and poultry viral diseases and vaccine development, and as Programme Leader of the diagnostic facility, responsible for Australia’s preparedness against exotic viral disease threats, including FMDV, CSFV, and Hendra virus.

Michael’s educational degrees are BSc (Hons), MBA and PhD in virology. He is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Member of the Project Management Institute.

Dr Andrew White BSc PhD CMIOSH AIEMA, Director of Risk and Assurance

Dr Andy White Andy is a biochemist by training, and holds a PhD in protein structure & chemistry from the University of Birmingham UK.

He worked as a University researcher and lecturer for several years. Andy is a Chartered Health & Safety practitioner, and previously had leadership roles in Health & Safety and risk management for a number of research-led organisations, including the University of Southampton, the Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research UK, and the Medical Research Council.

As Director of Risk & Assurance for the Pirbright Institute, he leads on all aspects of risk management including biosafety, Health & Safety, quality assurance, environment, crisis management & business continuity, biosecurity, and wider enterprise risks such as financial, informational, operational, reputational and strategic risks. Andy also leads on assurance processes, including leading and lagging performance metrics, audit & inspection, and benchmarking. Andy’s approach is to develop practical and proportionate risk & assurance solutions that facilitate science excellence.  Andy is also a member of the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council.

Helen Watts BSc FCA, Director of Finance and Company Secretary

Portrait of Helen Watts, Director of Finance at PirbrightHelen Watts is the Institute’s Director of Finance and Company Secretary, having joined Pirbright in 2019.  She is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEW) qualifying with Ernst & Young after obtaining a degree in Managerial and Administrative Studies at the University of Aston in Birmingham. Her remit includes all aspects of the Institute’s finances as well as managing the IT and procurement functions.

Helen has worked both in the private and public/not for profit sector throughout the UK, including world leaders in the marine industry, and British Institutions. She has extensive experience of managing finance functions to deliver excellent information and financial advice. She believes strongly in providing customer focused, timely information to help the organisation make well informed decisions. She also has significant experience of providing oversight to IT functions in many varied industries, again with the aim of providing IT solutions most suitable to the organisation’s needs.

Helen is a member of the Senior Leadership Board and attends the Trustee Board as the Institute’s Company Secretary.  She is also a member of the Development Programme Board, as well as being a member of a number of working groups overseeing many aspects of the Institute’s operations.

Dr Louise Barton, Head of Science Administration

Dr Louise Barton, Head of Science Administration Louise Barton is the Head of Science Administration at The Pirbright Institute. She obtained a BSc in Biology from the University of Southampton, and then went on to complete a PhD in molecular endocrinology at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London.

Subsequently, Louise made the move into science administration. She previously worked in the Grants Management team at the Wellcome Trust, where she was responsible for overseeing all stages of the grant life cycle, in the area of Genetic and Molecular Sciences. She managed a number of Wellcome’s expert committees and was involved in a number of partnership schemes with other funding bodies. In addition, during her time at Wellcome Louise assisted in the project to implement a new grants application and management system.

Louise joined The Pirbright Institute in 2016 and she and her team support the Director, Heads of Programmes and Reference Laboratories to manage the Institute’s scientific work, grant submissions, grants management processes, research contracts and agreements. Louise manages a number of internal committees and the Institutes Scientific Advisory Board meetings.

In addition, Louise manages the Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation team. They provide the Institute with the necessary support and continuity for existing technology transfer and business activities and develop new initiatives in knowledge exchange and commercialisation.

Dr Simon Carpenter, Head of Institute Core Capability Grant (CCG)

Simon CarpenterSimon Carpenter is an entomologist whose main research focus is the biology and ecology of biting midges within the genus Culicoides. He has worked on this group of insects for 18 years, beginning with his PhD which examined the Scottish biting midge in Argyll, Scotland.

Following these studies, he moved to The Pirbright Institute in 2002 to work within Dr Philip Mellor’s internationally renowned group researching the role of these tiny flies in arbovirus transmission. Simon became the Entomology group leader in 2011 and has since led a wide variety of externally funded projects on Culicoides and the viruses they transmit. In addition, Simon is science lead for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Core Capability Grant at The Pirbright Institute, a major public investment which funds infrastructure contributing to the Institute’s unique capabilities in virology and production of resources for research throughout the world.

Simon’s scientific studies have led to the publication of over 90 peer-reviewed papers and this expertise has also led to his involvement as an expert in responses to arbovirus incursions in the UK and beyond. He is a founder member of the OIE (World Animal Health) working group on Culicoides and an advisor within UK Defra expert groups on bluetongue and Schmallenberg viruses.

Ana Corral, Head of Quality Management

Ana Corral profile pictureAfter completing her degree and specialising in genetics and microbiology, Ana moved to the UK, from Northern Spain, and started her career as a Forensic Trainer. Subsequently, Ana worked in the private sector setting up new labs (e.g. genotyping testing), implementing new management systems (for example ISO/IEC 17025 for scrapie testing or GLP for Veterinary Residues Testing) and managing improvement projects. She has over 15 years’ experience of working in technical and quality management. 

Ana has been at Pirbright since 2015 managing the Quality and Environment team. She is also responsible for the organisation audit programme and the implementation of new laboratory software solutions. In addition, she is the Quality Manager for European Virus Archive goes Global (EVAg) and coordinates quality aspects of twinning projects between Pirbright and other organisations.

Ana works very closely with all departments across Pirbright, science and non-science, promoting a continuous improvement ethos and facilitating change. She, and her team, provides support to the organisation in all aspects of their work.

Prof John Hammond, Head of Programme: Enhanced Host Responses for Disease Control

John HammondJohn Hammond obtained his PhD in comparative immunology from the University of St Andrews before moving to Stanford University in 2003 to study the NK (natural killer immune cells) receptor evolution in mammals. In 2009 he moved to The Pirbright Institute with a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Institute fellowship to study NK cells in ruminants.

He now leads the Immunogenetics Group at the Institute studying the mechanisms and consequences of genetic variation on the mammalian immune system. The current focus is on the biology and evolution of immune cell receptors such as major histocompatibility (MHC) class I, NK cell receptors and immunoglobulins (antibodies) in livestock. As in humans all these molecules are highly diverse, but there are significant differences in how this diversity is generated and functions in ruminants.
The goal of this research is to determine the evolutionary history and functional significance of genetic diversity in current livestock breeds. This is underpinning the development of bespoke genotyping tools for the cattle breeding industry and leading to fine mapping the impact of variation on cellular immune function. As a consequence, differential immune responses during pathogen challenge can be traced back to genomic variation. A deeper understanding of this unique immune variation has the potential to improve disease resistance and vaccine efficacy in these key food producing animals.

Graeme Harkess, Head of Bio-Risk and Site Biosafety Officer (BSO)

Graeme Harkess, Site Biological Safety OfficerAfter completing his BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences, Graeme spent 10 years working in a number of hospitals within the NHS as a state-registered Biomedical Scientist in Microbiology, Virology and Immunology which included him completing an MSc in Medical Microbiology. In 2007 he moved into research, working at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (now APHA, Weybridge) on various research and surveillance  projects on rabies and rabies-related viruses. In 2012 Graeme moved to the Biosecurity department at The Pirbright Institute and in 2018 became the site Biosafety Officer (BSO).  He is responsible for site compliance with our SAPO licence (including the Minimum Standards for working with foot-and-mouth disase virus (FMDV) in vitro and in vivo), COSHH and Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained use).

Graeme is a member of the Institute of Safety in Technology and Research (MISTR), the Royal Society of Biology (MRSB), has a NEBOSH Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety is a Biosafety Practitioner (level 1), a qualified dangerous goods safety advisor (DGSA) and STEM ambassador.

Part of Graeme’s role includes being the site liaison with our regulator the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Wendy Marshall, Site Health and Safety Officer

Wendy spent 12 years working with Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis, within the ACDP containment level 3 laboratories at what is now the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).  During this time she achieved her BSc (Hons) in Immunology.  In 1999 she transferred into health and safety within the same organisation where she gained a huge amount of health, safety and biosafety experience in operations, research and laboratory development.  In 2012 Wendy moved to The Pirbright Institute to work on projects such as the Plowright and Jenner Buildings plus the design and development of other animal facilities which are soon to begin construction here at Pirbright.  Shortly after her appointment she completed her MSc in Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety Management.

Wendy transferred to the operational Health, Safety and Biosafety (HSBS) side in July 2017 to head up the team alongside the Site BSO, and is responsible for the health and safety (and biosafety where there is a crossover) of the Institute’s everyday operations in science, capability, and administration.  She is responsible for managing Pirbright’s inspection and improvement programme, monitoring radiation use, occupational health and health surveillance, overseeing Legionella and asbestos management and leading on incident reporting/investigation and fire prevention.

Wendy is a Graduate Member of the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and a Member of the Institute of Safety in Technology and Research (MISTR).

Teresa Maughan, Head of Communications

Teresa Maughan Teresa Maughan is Head of Communications at The Pirbright Institute and has responsibility for strategic corporate communications including public relations, reputation management, internal communications, crisis media management, marketing, digital media channels, events and public engagement.

Teresa has a CIPR Diploma in Public Relations and a BSc Hons Degree in Psychology and Zoology and has spent all entire career working in marketing and communications in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.

Teresa joined the Institute in 2013 and she and her team have been responsible for delivering a new corporate website, a year of Centenary celebrations and introduced innovative ways to communicate the scientific work of the Institute as well as engaging in an extensive range of public engagement activities. Previously she worked in communications in local government and led on major projects that include the Olympic Torch Relay, UK Parliamentary Elections and crisis communicatons.

Prior to working in the public sector she established her own contract publishing business providing editorial and design services for clients such as BBC Worldwide, Haymarket, Channel 4, Ebury Books, DHL and Waterstones working on brands that include BBC Gardeners World, BBC Good Food, Royal Horticultural Society, Linux, Olive and Maxim. At privately owned international publishing company Dennis Publishing she built a portfolio of consumer youth magazines in the games and entertainment sector becoming Publishing Director.

Dr Lynda Moore, Head of Academic Affairs and Training

Dr Lynda Moore Lynda Moore is Head of Academic Affairs and Training at The Pirbright Institute.  Following a BSc in Microbiology from the University of Bristol, her PhD studies at the Institute’s Compton Laboratory centred on the pathogenicity of Moraxella bovis in Infectious Bovine Keratoconjunctivitis.  Lynda then moved to the Department of Animal Health at the University of Sydney, Australia for six years where her postdoctoral research centred on the antigenic variation of Dichelobacter nodosus and vaccine development against footrot in sheep.

Upon returning to the UK, Lynda held a teaching/research role at the University of Bristol’s veterinary school for twelve years followed by a teaching/management role for a further seven years.  Her posts included senior lecturer in Veterinary Microbiology, Head of Admissions, Head of Teaching, Widening Participation Officer for the Faculty of Medical and Veterinary Sciences and Chair of the Faculty Quality Assurance of Teaching team. She holds the Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy.

Lynda is now responsible for the Institute’s doctoral training programme which hosts approximately 50 PhD students, including the Institute’s links with 20 degree awarding universities.  She also leads the training team overseeing aspects of student and post-doctoral training, e-learning for staff development, competency and compliance, staff training records, and Institute training courses for international scientists.  Her external roles include Member of the University of Bristol Court and External Examiner for the Glasgow and London veterinary schools.

Chris Overton, Head of Information Services

Chris Overton, Head of Information ServicesChris Overton joined The Pirbright Institute in January 2019 as Head of Information Services, providing strategic oversight of Institute wide information technology activities. He is responsible for the IT Department which supports Institute applications, data, infrastructure, users and information security.

Chris brings with him over 25 years’ experience in Information Technology, 18 of which have been held in management roles and he has a diverse background in IT and IT project management.

Prior to joining The Pirbright Institute, Chris spent the last 11 years working as IT Manager for a medical devices company who design and manufacture orthopaedic implants, and in previous roles he has been responsible for migrating a number of key business systems into the cloud and is very keen to explore new cloud technologies as they emerge.

Fiona Sirkett, Head of Human Resources

Portrait of Fiona Sirkett, Head of HR at PirbrightWith extensive experience in a variety of HR roles in the private and not-for-profit sectors, Fiona joined the Institute in December 2017 and was promoted to Head of HR in June 2019. 

Fiona started her HR career as a graduate with British Telecommunications (BT) in Reading, following completion of a BA in Psychology from University College Dublin and an MSc in Occupational Psychology from Queens University Belfast.  She spent 13 years with BT in a variety of HR management roles, before taking some time out with family.  She then moved into a role in Financial Services before moving in 2012 into the charity sector with a role in a national children’s charity.  This confirmed her desire to work for organisations which can make an impact in improving the lives of others. 

Fiona’s personal aims as Head of HR are to provide a framework for colleagues across all areas of the Institute to help them to meet their aspirations, on both a professional and a personal level and for the Institute to achieve outstanding success, to be a great place to work and for our employees to be proud of what we do collectively.

Dr Toby Tuthill, Head of Programme: Understanding and Preventing Viral Diseases

Toby TuthillToby Tuthill is a virologist interested in the molecular mechanisms used by viruses in the picornavirus family. Current areas of interest include cell entry, replication, assembly, structure, antigenicity and evolution. Research is intended to improve our understanding of the biology of these viruses and to apply this knowledge towards improved control of disease.


Toby joined The Pirbright Institute as a Research Fellow in 2009 after ten years postdoctoral experience in the laboratory of Professor Dave Rowlands at the University of Leeds.

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