SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Dr Matthew Hodges, Strategy & Business Development at Oxford Biotrans Ltd
Dr Matthew Hodges, Strategy & Business Development at Oxford Biotrans Ltd
What is your background and current job role?
I received my undergraduate degree and DPhil in Molecular Biology and Genomics from the University of Oxford, focusing in part on understanding the evolution and protein composition of Eukaryotic cilia (the ‘antenna of cells’). I then worked for a number of years as a consultant with Mars & Co, enabling business and operational strategy across the Life Sciences, FMCG, Auto and Aerospace industries.
Oxford Biotrans was spun out of the Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford, and is built on a group of process technologies that utilise enzymatic technologies to yield high-value chemical compounds, in some cases providing novel routes to molecules that are not easily accessed by conventional means. I came on-board last year following a successful Series A round, to help formulate the business strategy and development, and with our new lab, and growing team, Oxford Biotrans is a really exciting place to be.
What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?
Oxford Biotrans exploits a novel approach to P450 enzyme design to develop commercially viable fermentation and biotransformation solutions producing high-value compounds. Our initial product, natural-grade Nootkatone, is the flavour and scent of grapefruit, and as such sits within the Flavour & Fragrance industry. We have additional IBBE projects at various stages, spanning a wide range of sectors, from Pharma to Agrochemical, where we intend to realise scalable, ‘green’, biocatalytic processes for these products.
What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?
One of the biggest challenges to the viability of many biotransformation processes is their ability to scale, and function at concentrations relevant to commercial exploitation. Coupled to this is the need to utilise and develop synthetic biology techniques to create chemical routes from low-value, common substrates, to the desired end-product – the ‘cell as a factory’ concept. This challenge involves integrating the deep knowledge base that exists right across the sciences to tackle the challenges we see today in multi-component cascade reactions.
As an industry, there is also a need to further communicate the importance of IBBE to the wider public, especially in Europe, to convey the vital role it can play in areas such as resource security and the environment.
How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?
In the context of CBMNet, any member who is interested in understanding or optimising membrane transport for compounds, or maximising recombinant protein secretion, might be interested in talking to us, to develop joint grant applications or similar collaborations. We are always keen to explore novel approaches and techniques to improve our processes and research.
You can contact Matthew at firstname.lastname@example.org