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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 Charleston Prof 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 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.

Prof John Hammond Director of Research

John Hammond John 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.

John contributes to all aspects of Institute senior management and focus in particular on the science – operations interface and research culture.


Dr Louise Barton, Head of Research and Innovation

Louise Barton (she/her) is the Head of Research and Innovation at The Pirbright Institute. She obtained a first class BSc (hons) 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.

Louise then made the move into science management and administration. She worked in Grants Management at Wellcome for a number of years, 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 funders. 

Louise joined The Pirbright Institute in 2016, as the Head of Science Administration. Her Department and its remit has grown and expanded, and since 2023 she is the Head of Research and Innovation.  The Department is made of a range of diverse, dynamic, responsive, and professional support and enabling teams, including the: Grants, Academic Affairs, Science Administration, Library Services, EDI, and Business Development teams. The teams within the R&I Department provide dedicated, specialist support throughout the research and innovation lifecycle and ecosystem. They help sustain, facilitate, enable and advance Pirbright’s position and culture as a leading innovative centre for preventing and controlling viral diseases of livestock. Louise and the Department work across Pirbright at the interface of science and operations, with a highly collaborative and proactive approach, they are also part of many external collaborations, networks and forums appropriate to the sector.

Louise Chairs a number of Committees supporting scientific governance at Pirbright, including Pirbright’s Science Committee, and Grant Review Panel. She is also the key point of contact and has responsibility for the Institute Fellowship Programme, and she manages the Institute Development Grants as part of Pirbright’s strategic investment from BBSRC.

Sandra Croser, Head of Human Resources

 Sandra joined the Institute in September 2022 as Head of Human Resources. 

Sandra built her HR career working within national and multinational organisations in the private, public and charity sectors where she gained experience across all HR disciplines. With an interest in and experience of Engineering and Scientific Research environments, Sandra has been eager to understand the complexities for our scientists and engineers working in the high containment environment at Pirbright.  

As a keen advocate of principle-based decision making, she is completely aligned to The Pirbright Institute's Research Culture which has the golden thread of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the heart of our Employee Value Proposition.  

Sandra and her team support and promotes an environment where all employees can bring their whole self to work, are encouraged to ask questions and raise concerns that then enables them to deliver the Institutes goals whilst also achieving their personal and aspirational career goals through continuous coaching, formal and informal training and on the job experience.

Ana Corral, Head of Quality and Organisation

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.

Lizelle Gouverneur, Head of Business Development

Lizelle Gouverneur smiles to camera - head and shoulders picture. She wears a light grey jacket, has red rimmed square glasses and short dark hair.Lizelle joined the Institute in 2013 in the Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation (KEC) team, which supports researchers to share their research, ideas, and expertise with external stakeholders in order to maximise the Institute’s impact. The KEC team has a wide range of duties, including supporting engagement with industry, managing the Institute’s intellectual property portfolio, and drafting and negotiating research contracts. Lizelle also manages Project SPirE (Sharing Pirbright’s Expertise), which develops eLearning and face-to-face training course in the areas of disease control, high containment engineering, and biosafety. These training courses are intended to share the expertise we have Pirbright, thereby supporting skills development worldwide.

Prior to joining the Institute, Lizelle worked in the private sector, licensing in technologies like material and reagents from academic partners. She is also a trainer on the PraxisAuril Research Contracts course. Lizelle has qualifications in Biochemistry, Business Management and Intellectual Property Law.

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).

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.

Sarah Terry, Head of Health, Safety and Environment

Sarah TerrySarah joined the Institute in 2019 as a member of the Health, Safety and Biosafety team, before moving into the role of Head of Health, Safety and Environment at the end of 2022. 

After studying a Masters degree in Forensic Science, Sarah stayed in the world of academia, and worked within bioscience research laboratories at a leading university.  Here Sarah gained experience of laboratory management, and found a real enthusiasm for working with researchers and facilitating great science. This is where Sarah found her path, pursuing a career in Health and Safety. 

Sarah’s passion for workplace health and safety is people centric, and rooted in the mantra that everyone deserves to be safe and healthy at work. Sarah is an advocate for collaborative (worker led) risk management, and fostering a Just, and positive safety culture. 

Sarah has a keen interest in sustainability, and as Chair of the Institute’s Energy and Environment Team, endeavours to seek out new initiatives to boost awareness, and reduce environmental impact. 

Sarah is a member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), holds a NEBOSH Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety, is a qualified Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor (DGSA) and a member of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (AIEMA).

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

Toby Tuthill Toby 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.

Susan Williams, Head of Finance

Susan Williams, blonde hair tied back, dark rimmed glasses, wearing a pin striped jacket with silver horse brooch Susan Williams has been Head of Finance at The Pirbright Institute since 2015.

Prior to this, she worked in the property management industry for 17 years, 14 of which were in a managerial position. As Finance & IT manager, Susan was a member of the board, part of the Senior Membership Team and made key decisions regarding the strategic direction of the company. Her team produced over 100 service charge audited accounts per year, managed 200 bank accounts and produced consolidated company accounts. They were also heavily involved in running service charge budget and year end meetings for over 85 property estates across the South-East. Susan also played a key role in implementing a new accounting property management system and enabling the smooth relocation of the company on two occasions.

Pirbright is proud to have several World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) named disease experts at the Institute. To be designated a WOAH expert the individual must be a leading and active researcher helping an WOAH Reference Laboratory provide scientific and technical assistance and expert advice on topics linked to diagnosis and control of the disease for which the Reference Laboratory is responsible.

Disease OIE named expert
African swine fever   Dr Linda Dixon
Bluetongue Dr Carrie Batten 
Foot-and-mouth disease  Dr Don King
Marek's disease  Dr Yongxiu Yao
Peste des petits ruminants  Dr Michael Baron
Rinderpest Dr Michael Baron
Swine vesicular disease Dr Don King

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