Why are you interested in biomanufacturing?

I am interested in developing biomanufacturing routes that provide environmental (and economic) sustainablility, whether it is for manufacturing high value chemicals or bulk commodities. I am of the opinion that the processes we develop for meeting our needs should leave little or no footprint on our environment that is damaging. Today, a lot of our day-to-day needs are met primarily through our reliance on fossil fuels and petrochemical-based feedstock and processes. Whilst many of these chemical processes are versatile and have spurred the global economy, some of these have come at the expense of increasing damage to our environment. Meeting our needs through biomanufacturing has the potential to offer us solutions that are environmentally sustainable. For example, photoautotrophism exists in nature, where the abundantly available solar energy can be used to fix atmospheric carbon dioxide and convert it to organic carbon of value. However, the natural system is not geared to be directly employed as a biomanufacturing route. If we can make this a viable manufacturing route, it has the potential to offer an environmentally sustainable solution that is economic too, as the processes would be based on abundantly available non-depleting feedstock.

A challenge in biomanufacturing that interests me is the development of strategies to monitor bioprocesses non-invasively. There is usually a trade-off between speed/ease of data acquisition and data resolution with the different modalities available for monitoring bioprocesses. I am interested in developing analytical strategies that enable us to strike a balance between the two to monitor processes effectively. There is inherent complexity associated with the behaviour of biological cells. Characterising the complexity at different levels would enable us to employ the organisms effectively in a biomanufacturing environment. In this regard, I am interested in understanding how small molecular weight components (metabolites) mediate and control cellular processes. In order to gain a more holistic understanding of the underlying processes, this information needs to be integrated at the systems level and we employ systems biology based approaches. Our interest is in developing systems level characterisation that can lead to synthetic biology approaches of value. We have expertise to work with a range of mass spectrometry-based approaches, but would also be interested in developing other modalities in collaboration, to derive systems level data. This analytical expertise and interest is generic to all biomanufacturing routes.