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Dr Liku Bekele Tezera  MD, PhD

Visiting Fellow

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Dr Liku Bekele Tezera is a Visiting Fellow and Postdoctoral Career Track Awardee within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton.

He did his medical and postgraduate training in medical microbiology at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia and his PhD in 2010 from the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK in Cellular Microbiology through an international student’s research scholarship award. His thesis was about the role of PPAR-γ in innate immunity to pathogenic and commensal Neisseria in the nasopharyngeal mucosa (Cellular Microbiology 2011 13: 554-568). He joined Jon Friedland’s and Paul Elkington’s group at Imperial College as a postdoctoral research fellow in 2011 where he started developing in vitro granuloma models of tuberculosis for investigating the pathology of M.tuberculosis (Mtb) infection.

He moved to the University of Southampton in 2012 with Paul Elkington’s research group where he established a novel 3-dimensional model system for Mtb by using a bioelectrospraying technique, which involves an engineering approach to incorporate extracellular matrix (ECM), mycobacteria and different human cells to form an in vitro granuloma system. Using this engineered in vitro granuloma model, he studies the host-pathogen interaction, particularly the role of different ECM components in regulating the well-being of host cells and growth of Mtb in the granuloma. He has received funding from the National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction (NC3Rs) of animals in research, National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA and recently from Wessex Medical Research. Furthermore, this cell culture platform has wide applicability for diverse human diseases and Liku is currently developing a multi-parameter readout that can be applied to a range of biological questions as well as improving the tractability of this 3D culture system by incorporating stromal cells differentiated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) derived from autologous PBMCs.


PhD in Cellular Microbiology, University of the West of England, UK (2010) (with an International Students Research Scholarship award)
MSc in Medical Microbiology, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia (2005)
Doctor of Medicine (MD), Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia (2001)

Appoiintments held

Senior Research Fellow and Postdoctoral Career Track Awardee, Faculty of Medicine - Clinical and Experimental Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton , UK (August 2017 – present)

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Faculty of Medicine-Clinical and Experimental Sciences, University of Southampton , Southampton , UK (July 2012-till present)

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Infectious Disease and Immunity, Imperial College, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK (June 2011-June 2012)

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Centre for Research in Biosciences, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK (February 2010 – June 2011)

Research interests

Liku’s research interest is the development of a physiologically relevant in vitro environment model that mimics human granuloma formation in Tuberculosis (TB). 3-dimensional (3D) cultures have been established to better mimic in vivo with respect to functional and physiological parameters than classical 2D in vitro models. Development of a 3D-model system for M.tuberculosis (Mtb) is critical in the TB field as research relies heavily on animal models, including mice, guinea pigs, rabbits and non-human primates. Such a model will partially replace these animal models, which do not completely reflect the pathology that occurs in human TB. One of the central models he is working on utilizes cellular bioelectrospray technology to encapsulate human cells, extracellular matrix components and live Mtb. Using specially designed encapsulation techniques, many microspheres can be rapidly generated and used for studying host-pathogen interactions (Advanced Functional Materials 2014; 24: 2648-2657). Results so far demonstrate that cells have excellent viability, aggregate in a collagen-alginate matrix and secrete cytokines and proteases when stimulated with Mtb (eLife, 6(e21283), 1-19). There is also comparable growth of Mtb in the microsphere matrix as in liquid media, making this in vitro model a viable alternative to reduce the requirement for TB animal modelling for antimycobacterial drug activity (mBio,2017. 8(1), 1-14) and host-directed therapy (Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2017.10(1093)).

This 3D-model system for Mtb not only provides novel insights into tuberculosis disease pathogenesis but also provides a platform, which can be used to replace animal experimentation in both infectious and non-infectious inflammatory diseases. The model will serve as a springboard into other fields for non-infectious diseases characterized by inflammatory cell infiltrate and matrix destruction, such as other granulomatous diseases of the lung, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis and cancer cell invasion.


Clinical and Experimental Sciences

Postgraduate student supervision

Elena Konstantinopoullou, University VC Award (with Professor Paul Elkington)-2016

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Book Chapters


BMedSci and MMedSci student supervision

Dr Liku Bekele Tezera
University of Southampton Southampton General Hospital Tremona Road Room LE67, MP813 Southampton SO16 6YD

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