Harry J. Gilbert

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Harry Gilbert
Professor Harry Gilbert FMedSci FRS.jpg
Harry Gilbert at the Royal Society admissions day in July 2016
Alma mater
Scientific career
ThesisStudies on native and mutant forms of IMP dehydrogenase in Escherichia coli K12 (1979)

Harry J. Gilbert FRS[2] FMedSci (born 1953) is Professor of Agricultural Biochemistry and Nutrition in the Institute For Cell and Molecular Biosciences at Newcastle University.[1][3]


Gilbert was educated at the University of Southampton graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1975[3] followed by a PhD for research investigating mutant forms of the enzyme IMP dehydrogenase in Escherichia coli K12 in 1978.[4]


Since taking up a lectureship at Newcastle University in 1985 Gilbert's research has focussed on enzymes, primarily glycoside hydrolases, which attack complex carbohydrates. These enzymes are of considerable biological and industrial importance. Gilbert has used structure-function studies to dissect the contribution of non-catalytic carbohydrate binding modules (CBMs)[5] in targeting enzymes to complex insoluble structures exemplified by the plant cell wall, thereby overcoming the access problem.[6][7]

He has extended his studies on carbohydrate binding modules to explore how glycoside hydrolases are able to select specific substrates and modes of action. Using structure-based strategies, he has exploited this fundamental understanding of enzyme specificity to engineer novel catalytic functions into these biological catalysts.

As of 2016, Gilbert has been dissecting the mechanisms of glycans utilisation by gut bacteria, in the human microbiota.[8] His work has led to the presentation of a selfish model for the metabolism of highly complex carbohydrates by members of this ecosystem.[9][10] His work has implications on resource allocation within the human microbiota, which could impact on dietary strategies that maximise the impact of this microbial ecology on health.

From 2008 to 2010 he was appointed an Eminent Scholar in Bioenergy at the University of Georgia, in the USA.[11] Gilbert's research has been funded by the Agricultural and Food Research Council (AFRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the United States Department of Energy (DOE), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Wellcome Trust and the European Research Council (ERC).[11]

Awards and honours[edit]

Gilbert was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2016[2] and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.[when?]


  1. ^ a b c Harry J. Gilbert publications indexed by Google Scholar
  2. ^ a b Anon (2016). "Professor Harry Gilbert FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 29 April 2016. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:

    "All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License." --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

  3. ^ a b "Professor Harry Gilbert: Strategic Research Adviser". Newcastle upon Tyne: Newcastle University. Archived from the original on 22 May 2016.
  4. ^ Gilbert, Harry J. (1979). Studies on native and mutant forms of IMP dehydrogenase in Escherichia coli K12 (PhD thesis). University of Southampton. OCLC 59337956.
  5. ^ Boraston, Alisdair B.; Bolam, David N.; Gilbert, Harry J.; Davies, Gideon J. (2004). "Carbohydrate-binding modules: fine-tuning polysaccharide recognition". Biochemical Journal. 382 (3): 769–781. doi:10.1042/BJ20040892. PMC 1133952. PMID 15214846.
  6. ^ Fontes, Carlos M.G.A.; Gilbert, Harry J. (2010). "Cellulosomes: Highly Efficient Nanomachines Designed to Deconstruct Plant Cell Wall Complex Carbohydrates". Annual Review of Biochemistry. 79 (1): 655–681. doi:10.1146/annurev-biochem-091208-085603. PMID 20373916.
  7. ^ Gilbert, H. J.; Hazlewood, G. P. (1993). "Bacterial cellulases and xylanases". Journal of General Microbiology. 139 (2): 187–194. doi:10.1099/00221287-139-2-187.
  8. ^ Eisen, Jonathan A.; Martens, Eric C.; Lowe, Elisabeth C.; Chiang, Herbert; Pudlo, Nicholas A.; Wu, Meng; McNulty, Nathan P.; Abbott, D. Wade; Henrissat, Bernard; Gilbert, Harry J.; Bolam, David N.; Gordon, Jeffrey I. (2011). "Recognition and Degradation of Plant Cell Wall Polysaccharides by Two Human Gut Symbionts". PLOS Biology. 9 (12): e1001221. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001221. PMC 3243724. PMID 22205877. open access
  9. ^ Cuskin, Fiona; Lowe, Elisabeth C.; Temple, Max J.; Zhu, Yanping; Cameron, Elizabeth A.; Pudlo, Nicholas A.; Porter, Nathan T.; Urs, Karthik; Thompson, Andrew J.; Cartmell, Alan; Rogowski, Artur; Hamilton, Brian S.; Chen, Rui; Tolbert, Thomas J.; Piens, Kathleen; Bracke, Debby; Vervecken, Wouter; Hakki, Zalihe; Speciale, Gaetano; Munōz-Munōz, Jose L.; Day, Andrew; Peña, Maria J.; McLean, Richard; Suits, Michael D.; Boraston, Alisdair B.; Atherly, Todd; Ziemer, Cherie J.; Williams, Spencer J.; Davies, Gideon J.; Abbott, D. Wade; Martens, Eric C.; Gilbert, Harry J. (2015). "Human gut Bacteroidetes can utilize yeast mannan through a selfish mechanism". Nature. 517 (7533): 165–169. doi:10.1038/nature13995. PMC 4978465. PMID 25567280.
  10. ^ "Beer and bread yeast-eating bacteria aid human health". York: University of York. Archived from the original on 17 April 2016.
  11. ^ a b Harry Gilbert's Entry at ORCID