I was born in Ireland but educated in the UK. I graduated as a biochemist in 1977 from the University of London and then studied for a PhD in fungal genetics (also at University of London) before moving into human genetics and then back to microbial genetics. Since the early 1980’s I have has focussed on elucidating virulence mechanisms and pathways of microbial pathogeesis, particularly the agents that cause tuberculosis and meningitis. As well as my mainstream work, I has also written popular science articles on a range of topics from evolutionary genetics to quantum mechanics. I became interested in the phenomenon of adaptive mutation and in 1999 wrote a paper, with Jim Al-Khalili, proposing a role for quantum mechanics in mutation. I went on to write the book, 'Quantum Evolution' in 2000 in which I proposed a wider role for quantum mechanics in biology. My mainstream research has continued in microbial genetics, particularly in developing new systems biology approaches to infectious diseases, developing the first in silico metabolic model of the TB bacillus in 2007 and the meningococcus in 2010 and using these tools to investigate the host-pathogen interaction.
My popular science writing includes 'Quantum Evolution' published in 200, 'Human Nature: Fact and Fiction: Literature, Science and Human Nature' published in 2006, 'Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology' published in 2014 and I am currently writing 'Life is Simple: Ockham's Razor and the Triumph of Simplicity' to be published in 2019.
Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, recipient of Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award 2014, Shortlisted for Royal Society Winton Prize for Science books 2015