Dr Phil Elks

BSc (Hons), PhD

Clinical Medicine, School of Medicine and Population Health

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Phil Elks
Dr Phil Elks
Profile picture of Dr Phil Elks
+44 114 222 3609

Full contact details

Dr Phil Elks
Clinical Medicine, School of Medicine and Population Health
Room F25
Firth Court
Western Bank
S10 2TN

For enquiries, please contact – ClinMed-Operational@sheffield.ac.uk

I graduated with a BSc (hons) in Biochemistry at the University of Warwick in 2004. I moved to Sheffield for the first time in 2004 to pursue a PhD in bone biology in a collaborative project between the then newly forming, Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics (CDBG) (with Dr Henry Roehl) and the Medical School (with Professor Peter Croucher), in which I studied the role of Wnt signalling in osteoblast formation in zebrafish.

After my PhD I did a post-doctoral project with Dr Stephen Renshaw, in which I investigated hypoxia-induced genetic signalling (HIF signalling) and its role in inflammation. During this project I developed the zebrafish as a model to study HIF signalling, and I was awarded a European Respiratory Society (ERS) Long Term Fellowship in 2011 to study HIF’s role in infection.

I moved to the University of Leiden, The Netherlands, to perform the ERS Fellowship, in which I found a role for HIF in the host-defence mechanism against Tuberculosis in a zebrafish model. In 2013 I was awarded a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellowship to return to Sheffield and set up my research group in Infection and Immunity.

In 2015 I was awarded a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship from The Wellcome Trust/Royal Society, which was extended in 2020.

Research interests

When the body encounters invading pathogens, such as bacteria, a series of interactions between host immune cells and pathogen is initiated. These interactions are highly dynamic and involve complex genetic signalling pathways deriving from both the host and the pathogen. White blood cells, or leukocytes, of the host are able to phagocytose (internalise) bacteria and have an artillery of killing mechanisms to disarm the infection.

However some bacteria, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, have evolved to survive and proliferate within host immune cells, disarming the leukocytes to make a niche in which to prosper. These types of infection have been historically successfully treated by targeting the bacteria using antibiotics. However, more recently, there has been an alarming rise in strains which are multi-drug resistant. Further understanding of the host response to infection is required to identify genetic targets for much needed future host-targetted therapies.

One host-genetic pathway that I have previously identified as being a modulator of both inflammation and infection is the HIF pathway, an important cellular oxygen sensing pathway. In the normal oxygen situation the HIF transcription factor is silenced by protein degradation, however during inflammatory and infection situations HIF is stabilised in leukocytes, via mechanisms that have yet to be fully elucidated, and has a number of immune activating effects. HIF therefore represents a potential host-derived target for therapeutics against infectious disease.

The zebrafish is my chosen model to study the roles of HIF in host response to infection. The zebrafish embryo is transparent and genetically manipulable, allowing a unique opportunity in which to study the host response to infection in a whole organism setting. Utilizing zebrafish models of infection I hope to shed light on the roles of HIF during infection, and to further understand the complex signalling processes involved in host-pathogen interaction.


Show: Featured publications All publications

Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers

All publications

Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers

  • Szkuta P, Lewis A, Renshaw S, Condliffe A & Elks P (2019) Neutrophils activated with Hif-1 alpha are protective in zebrafish tuberculosis in vivo models. EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL INVESTIGATION, Vol. 49 (pp 67-68) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Rizzello L, Robertson J, Elks P, McHugh T, Renshaw S & Battaglia G (2017) Polymersomes for targeting and eradicating intracellular parasites. ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, Vol. 253 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Elks P, van der Vaart M, van Eeden F, Spaink H, Walmsley S, Meijer A & Renshaw S (2014) Hypoxia signaling modulates neutrophil nitric oxide in a zebrafish tuberculosis model. EUROPEAN RESPIRATORY JOURNAL, Vol. 44 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Thompson AAR, Elks PM, Marriott HM, Higgins KR, Parmar S, Shaw G, Eamsamarng S, McGrath EE, Formenti F, Van Eeden FJ , Kinnula VL et al (2012) HYPOXIA-INDUCIBLE FACTOR 2 alpha REGULATES NEUTROPHILIC INFLAMMATION IN HUMANS, MICE AND ZEBRAFISH. THORAX, Vol. 67 (pp A1-A1) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Thompson AAR, Elks PM, Marriott HM, Higgins KR, Shaw G, Parmar S, Formenti F, Van Eden FJ, Pugh CW, Sabroe I , Dockrell DH et al (2012) HIF-2± Regulates Neutrophilic Inflammation In Humans, Mice And Zebrafish. C31. REGULATION OF LUNG INFLAMMATION RIS download Bibtex download
  • Felber K, Elks P, Croucher P & Roehl H (2009) FGF signalling is regulating bone development in zebrafish. MECHANISMS OF DEVELOPMENT, Vol. 126 (pp S209-S209) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Elks PM, Li N, Roehl HH & Croucher PI (2007) WNT signalling upregulates osteoblast differentiation in zebrafish: A novel model for studies in osteoblastogenesis. JOURNAL OF BONE AND MINERAL RESEARCH, Vol. 22(7) (pp 1115-1115) RIS download Bibtex download


Research group
  • Amy Lewis - Research Assistant
  • Ffion Hammond - PhD
  • Jelle Oskam - PhD
  • Tom Burgess - PhD
  • Josh Norwood - PhD
  • Ben Walker - Sheffield Hallam Placement Student
Professional activities and memberships
  • Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow.
  • Member of the European Respiratory Society.
  • Reviewer of manuscripts.
  • Supervisor of students (BMedSci/ bachelors/ masters)
  • Member of the Zebrafish Disease Models Society.
  • NC3Rs Training Fellowship Assessment Panel (2021-2023).