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Neil Boonham

Science Lead for Detection & Surveillance Technologies

Neil is the science lead for the detection and surveillance technologies research area at Fera. Neil has a background in plant virology and molecular biology and in recent years has focused on the application of post-genomic technologies to provide applied solutions to detection problems in agricultural and environmental analysis. In the agricultural and biosecurity work the research of the team is focused on development of targeted techniques for in-field and automated detection of pathogens. This encompasses development of diagnostic techniques to enable rapid decision making in the agri-food supply chain to the automated measurement of airborne inoculum; the goal is to provide end users with data enabling them to make more timely and effective management decisions. In addition the use of next generation sequencing for detection and characterisation of the causal agents of disease and virus discovery through to investigating the impact microbial communities have in modulating disease symptoms and severity.

In the environmental area the team is working again on targeted and untargeted analysis of environmental DNA to improve the efficiency of monitoring activities. Our aim is to streamline the analysis of samples such that we can profile environmental samples for the presence of DNA from pathogens, the makeup of its microbial and meiofaunal communities as well as the biodiversity of the macro invertebrates, vertebrates and plants that are living in the environment. Neil maintains a keen interest in Virology in particular the interaction between viruses and plant hosts, the evolution of virus species and the characterisation of persistent viruses in plants. The more academic aspects of which are pursued in close collaborations with the Universities of Newcastle, Nottingham, Bristol and York. Neil has authored more than 100 peer reviewed publications and is an editor for the Journal of Virological Methods and a special associate Professor at the University of Nottingham. Neil regularly provides keynote and plenary lectures at international conferences and lectures at undergraduate and masters degree courses at the Universities of Nottingham, Leeds and Harper Adams.

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