Organisation profile

Organisation profile

The Bacterial Synthetic Biology group works broadly within microbiology, as it applies to industrial biotechnology, food production and human health.

We develop and apply novel technologies within the fields of microbiome synthetic biology, lab evolution and multiplexed phenotyping. Our specific areas of interest include:

 

-       Microbiome therapeutics

-       Sustainable food production

-       Drug resistance and collateral sensitivity

-       Population heterogeneity in industrial bioprocesses

 

Human microbiome and engineered microbiome therapeutics

The human microbiome is to an increasing extent being implicated in a wide range of disease and health states. We study the human microbiome during interventions, with a particular focus on antibiotic treatment and resulting microbiome modulation. We design and build new interventions for modulating the microbiome to promote specific community compositions or functionality. We also design and build interventions that can amend the functionality encoded in the gut microbiome.

 

Synthetic biology for sustainable food production

Earth’s population could soon reach ten billion people, leading to a 50-80% increase in global demand for food. Current agriculture cannot support this, as food production already today accounts for approximately 1/3 of total greenhouse gas emissions and take up approx. 38% of Earth's land mass. To address this global challenge, a combination of new food habits and radical innovation in food production must take place. We are using microbial synthetic biology to address this global challenge.

 

Antibiotic resistance and collateral sensitivity

In many cases, resistance to a particular antibiotic did not evolve within the resistant human pathogen, but rather was acquired by lateral gene transfer from other resistant bacteria (reservoirs of resistance genes). We are using a variety of culture-dependent and culture-independent methods to characterise how antibiotic gene reservoirs are interacting, with the ultimate goal of creating quantitative models for how antibiotic resistance genes arise in human pathogens. We study the adaptive mechanisms of drug resistance and collateral sensitivity with the goal of developing novel treatment strategies for countering resistance development.

 

Understanding and addressing heterogeneity in large scale fermentations

Industrial-scale biomanufacturing of therapeutics, enzymes, and chemicals relies on cultivating large volumes of engineered cells in fed-batch or continuous bioprocesses. Clonal expansion of high-performing producer cells can favour the emergence of low-producing escape variants. Eventually, these low- or non-producing variants can reduce product yield and quality. We are investigating this problem as it applies to industrial biomanufacturing and develop synthetic biology solutions to limit its detrimental effects on scale-up.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Our work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water

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