We are interested in Synthetic Biology, a discipline at the interface of biology and engineering. With colleagues in the School of Engineering & Electronics, we developed methods to engineer novel biological systems using modular ‘parts’ and standardized assembly methods. These can be applied to generate artificial genetic networks, in a process we call ‘object-oriented genetics’, and also to generate multiple variants of metabolic pathways, in a process we call ‘combinatorial genetic engineering’. We are currently focusing on the following application areas:
1. Development of biosensors for the detection of contaminants in the environment. For example, we have developed novel biosensors for the detection of arsenic and other heavy metals in groundwater, a major public health issue in parts of Asia and America.
2. Development of genetic modules for the efficient conversion of cellulosic biomass to useful products. Cellulosic biomass is abundant and renewable, but very difficult to degrade. We have generated various combinations of genes encoding biomass-degrading enzymes, which allow recombinant organisms to grow with cellulosic biomass as only carbon source. These can be combined with other genetic modules which allow the formation of useful products such as biofuels and food ingredients.
3. Aceleration of industrial metabolic engineering and development of novel technics for production of metabolites of high comercial value.