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Dr David Smith - head shot

David Smith

Moredun Research Institute
Pentland Science Park
EH26 0PZ


Dr David Smith is a Moredun Fellow and joined the Insitute in September 2019.

His major research interests are in understanding how parasites invade their host and persist long-term. His research interests bridge both basic and applied science. More specifically, David is interested in understanding parasite invasion and persistence at a molecular level, with a view towards identifying novel vaccine and drug targets. He is particularly keen to use and develop physiologically relevant in vitro models for exploring host-parasite biology. By applying genetic modification technology (such as CRISPR/Cas9), David plans to use these models as a platform for understanding parasite gene and protein function. Through understanding how parasites work, we are best placed to identify points for disease intervention.

David gained his bachelor’s degree in Zoology in 2010 from Liverpool John Moores University, which is where his interests in parasitology initially began. Following this, David completed an MPhil at Newcastle University, in which his thesis focused on characterizing microbial communities associated with healthy, stressed and diseased tropical corals.

With an interest in understanding what makes particular organisms pathogenic, David undertook a PhD at Queen’s University Belfast under the supervision of Prof John Dalton. Here, he sought to understand molecules associated with parasite virulence in the helminth Fasciola hepatica and was successful in determining parasite protease inhibitors with novel and unexpected function.

It was during his PhD that David also became exposed to vaccine trials in livestock and gained a passion for developing novel therapeutic strategies. Following his PhD in 2017, David moved to the University of Michigan to take up a position as a postdoctoral researcher in Prof Vernon Carruthers Lab, whereby he worked on multiple basic and applied research projects centered on the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Here, he established cellular processes that are essential to the parasite’s ability to persist chronically within its mammalian host. Furthermore, he developed an in vitro platform for screening compounds effective at killing chronic stage T. gondii, for which no drug currently exists, and worked as part of a collaborative project to develop reversible protease inhibitors that kill chronic-stage parasites and are able to reach difficult sites of infection (e.g. the brain).

Current Research

  • Molecular basis of parasite invasion and persistence.
  • Development of novel intervention strategies, including vaccines.

  • Innes, E., Hamilton, C., Garcia, J.L., Chryssafidis, A., Smith, D. ‘A One Health approach to vaccines against Toxoplasma gondii’. Food and Waterborne Parasitology, e00053.
  • Cwiklinski, K., Donnelly, S., Drysdale, O., Jewhurst, H., Smith, D., de Marco Verissimo, C., Pritsch, I. C., O’Neill, S., Dalton, J., Robinson, M. W. (2019) ‘The cathepsin-like cysteine peptidases of trematodes of the genus Fasciola’. Advances in Parasitology, 104, 113-164.
  • Grote, A., Caffrey, C.R., Rebello, K.M., Smith, D., Dalton, J.P., Lustigman, S. (2018) ‘Cysteine Proteases During Larval Migration and Development of Helminths in Their Final Host’. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 12(8), e0005919.
  • Caffrey, C.R., Goupil, L., Rebello, K.M., Dalton, J.P., Smith, D. (2018) ‘Cysteine Proteases as Digestive Enzymes in Parasitic Helminths’. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 12(8), e0005840.
  • Smith, D., Tikhonova, I.G., Jewhurst, H.L., Drysdale, O.C., Dvořák, J., Robinson, M.W., Cwiklinski, K. and Dalton, J.P. (2016) ‘Unexpected Activity of a Novel Kunitz-type Inhibitor: Inhibition of Cysteine Proteases but not Serine Proteases’. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 291(37), pp.19220-19234.
  •  Smith, D., Leary, P., Craggs, J., Bythell, J. and Sweet, M. (2015) 'Microbial Communities Associated with Healthy and White Syndrome-Affected Echinopora lamellosa in Aquaria and Experimental Treatment with the Antibiotic Ampicillin', PloS one, 10(3), p. e0121780.
  •  Smith, D., Leary, P., Bendall, M., Flach, E., Jones, R. and Sweet, M. (2014) 'A Novel Investigation of a Blister-Like Syndrome in Aquarium Echinopora lamellosa', PloS one, 9(5), p. e97018.
  •  Sweet, M., Smith, D., Bythell, J. and Craggs, J. (2013) 'Changes in microbial diversity associated with two coral species recovering from a stressed state in a public aquarium system', Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research, 1(2), pp. 52-60.

Selected Key Publications