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Prescott, Tom A.K.

Job title: 

Research Leader, Evaluation of Plant Uses

Natural Capital and Plant Health
Joined Kew: 


Foreign languages: 

Neo-Melanesian (fluent), Spanish (conversational), Indonesian (basic conversational), French (basic conversational)

Qualifications and appointments: 
  • BSc Hons, Biochemistry, Univ. Edinburgh, 1999
  • PhD, Dept. Biomedical Sciences, Univ. Edinburgh, 2005
  • Principle investigator on ETF funded antiviral proof of concept project, 2006

My role is to identify plants and fungi with potential uses as medicines and cosmetics. I test collections of plant extracts on human cell lines, measuring changes in cell signalling pathways and gene expression. I then isolate bioactive chemical compounds from the most promising species. A second area of interest is chemical genetic profiling to investigate the mode of action of antifungal natural products.

I am currently working with a barcoded, pooled collection of 10 million yeast mutants which will enable the protein targets of antifungal compounds to be identified. I also undertake ethnobotanical fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, working with small rainforest communities to identify plants with potential in treating common superficial infections such as the tropical ulcer. The aim is to identify low tech antiseptic first line treatments for remote communities that cannot access primary health care.

Selected publications: 

Prescott, T. A., Rigby, L. P., Veitch, N. C. & Simmonds, M. S. J. (2014). The haploinsufficiency profile of a-hederin suggests a caspofungin-like antifungal mode of action. Phytochemistry 101: 116-120.

Prescott, T. A., Panaretou, B., Veitch, N. C. & Simmonds, M. S. (2014). A yeast chemical genetics approach identifies the compound 3,4,5-trimethoxybenzyl isothiocyanate as a calcineurin inhibitor. FEBS letters 588: 455-458. 

Prescott, T. A., Kite, G. C., Porter, E. A., Veitch, N. C. (2013). Highly glycosylated flavonols with an O-linked branched pentasaccharide from Iberis saxatilis (Brassicaceae). Phytochemistry 88: 85-91.  

Prescott, T. A., Arino, J., Kite, G. C., Simmonds, M .S. (2012). Inhibition of human calcineurin and yeast calcineurin-dependent gene expression by Jasminum humile leaf and root extracts. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 140: 293-297. 

Prescott, T. A., Kiapranis, R., Maciver, S. K., (2012). Comparative ethnobotany and in-the-field antibacterial testing of medicinal plants used by the Bulu and inland Kaulong of Papua New Guinea. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 139: 497-503.