Spotlight on Industry

We asked our Industrial CBMNet members what they think the grand challenges in crossing biological membranes research are. See what they have to say below….

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Tithira Wimalasena, Senior Fermentation Scientist, Calysta


Dr Tithira Wimalasena, Senior Fermentation Scientist, Calysta

What is your background and current job role?

After graduating with a BSc in Microbiology, I obtained a Masters in Applied Molecular Microbiology from University of Nottingham. Following this I completed a PhD at the same university, understanding the unfolded protein response of Candida albicans which was related to Medical Microbiology.  On completing my PhD, I joined University of Nottingham as a Research Fellow on a brewing project developing novel molecular tools to beverage industry. During this project, I had lot of exposure to applying grants, developing patents and understanding the insights of developing a spin out company. Followed by then I joined a project looking at producing bioethanol using lignocellulosic materials. My role was to develop super tolerant Saccharomyces strains to ferment bioethanol effectively. I also led projects related to strain optimisation i.e., de-constituting and understanding the mode of action of pre-treatment associated inhibitors and toxic end products on the biocatalyst, modified it by using classical mutagenesis tools and screening them using high throughput methods to identify super tolerant yeast strains and their behavior in the fermentation and scaling up process.

I left University to join Dupont to work in the pilot plant as a Fermentation Scientist. This project was managed by Butamax (Joint venture of BP and Dupont) producing isobutanol. During this project, I led fermentation lab managing trouble shooting activities of the pilot plant experiments and focused on process development and scale up studies collaborated with global fermentation team in Dupont USA.

I joined Calysta in 2016 as a Senior Scientist.  My role at Calysta was to manage fermentation activities in the pilot plant based at Teesside UK. This has given me a fantastic opportunity to understand the novel gas fermentation technology.

Currently I am managing all the fermentation activities at Calysta UK. This includes the activities in the Market introduction facilities (pilot plant) as well as managing the small-scale fermentation activities in the lab. One interesting aspect of my job is that I get to work with cross disciplines in the company; one day I work with process technicians to improve the productivity and next day I may be working with process development engineers responsible for up scaling the technology focusing closely on fermentation risk mitigation. Outside my core role, I work with process modelers focusing on statistical data analysis using the data generated from the pilot plant, or quality assurance and business development team in Calysta headquarters based at Menlo Park California, providing technical input and guidance to support to enhance the quality of the final product.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

We are in the process of developing fully fledged gas fermentation lab which will be linked to state of the art microbiology and analytical facilities. We will be looking at process development experiments related to gas fermentation. Our interests will mainly be focused on process development, fermentation, microbiology and related analytical techniques.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?

Calysta Ltd is an Industrial Biotechnology company founded in 2012, a global company creating innovative industrial bio products from sustainable sources. Recently it has been nominated as the “3rd Hottest Emerging Companies in the Advanced Bioeconomy” rankings by Biofuel Digest magazine in 2017.

Calysta develops and produces high quality protein for commercial aquaculture and livestock feed. Calysta has established its first Market Introduction Facility (D-loop Pilot scale fermentation facilities) in UK for FeedKind® protein, a new sustainable fish feed ingredient to reduce the aquaculture industry’s use of fishmeal. The facility opened in September 2016 and is located at Wilton centre at Teesside, in northeast England. Calysta has also announced a partnership with Cargill for production of FeedKind Aqua protein in North America and marketing worldwide.

One of the challengers Calysta may face will be scaling up sustainable animal feed innovation to meet the world demand for animal protein production. In addition, there will be increased demand for the protein such as increased amino acid composition, improved digestibility, and animal performance and health. Future research challenges include modified downstream processing to produce value-added products, and improved understanding of factors contributing to nutrient availability and animal health performance.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?

We are constantly seeking better ways to conduct our R&D and networking across partners with aligned interests from both academia and industry and as a part of it we have already established close collaborations with some CBM members such as University of Nottingham. With the new R&D facilities on the horizon we will be looking to work on more development projects related to gas fermentation, microbiology and analytical chemistry which are always open for collaboration.

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Daniela Heeg, CHAIN Biotechnology Ltd


Daniela Heeg, Technical Product Manager, CHAIN Biotechnology Ltd

What is your background and current job role?

I obtained a PhD in Molecular Medical Microbiology from the University of Nottingham, where I undertook a project concerned with the spore formation and spore germination of the important human pathogen Clostridium difficile. Following this, I worked at the University of Nottingham as Postdoctoral researcher and in clinical diagnostics at a private company before joining CHAIN Biotechnology Ltd as Technical Product Manager. Here, I am responsible for the development and dissemination of our product range, including commercial tools such as the modular pMTL80000 vector series and the first therapeutic products in our pipeline.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

Currently, we are using Clostridium spp. as chassis to secrete therapeutic substances for the treatment of inflammatory and infectious bowel diseases. We have produced our first genetically modified strain secreting therapeutic, CHN-1, in volumes to support early in vitro pre-clinical work. We are now investigating in scale-up of this and other strains to improve growth. We are also researching an inducible version of spore production.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?

As CHAIN identify novel therapeutic targets, methods of secretion for novel peptides in Clostridium will need to be developed. We currently have a collaboration with the University of Nottingham in this area. In addition, because we are using the spores of our strain in formulation, we cannot induce spore formation with any substance that would prevent us from using the resulting spores in human clinical trials and subsequently in medicine. Thus, we cannot induce using common systems such as antibiotic inducible system. We also have the need for a truly tight system, so any system that can be triggered by external natural substances is not ideal for our purpose.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?

Other CBMNet members could help us with our research by suggesting and maybe testing systems in the scope of an interaction voucher or more substantial funding. Such projects could focus on identification or secretion of peptides from bacteria or induction of sporulation that would be acceptable for deliberate release of an organism.

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Keith Thomas, Brewlab Limited

Keith Thomas, Brewlab Limited

What is your background and current job role?

Brewlab is a leading provider of training and analysis services for the international brewing industry, based in purpose built premises on the banks of the river Wear in Sunderland. I am currently director of Brewlab Ltd, responsible for company developments and project management.  I am also a senior lecture in Microbiology at the University of Sunderland teaching undergraduate, MSc and PhD students in microbiology, biotechnology and food sciences.  My background in food and beverage production with specialisms in brewing, yeast physiology for food applications and developing novel raw materials.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

We have three major projects currently ongoing:

  1. Developing uses for brewing by-products with a focus on bioremediation and reintroduction into food products.
  2. Assessment of historic barley varieties for application to contemporary brewing.
  3. Matching of yeast strains to beverage characteristics.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years? 

  1. Molecular biology techniques to identify relevant microorganisms and genes which may assist bioremediation and food flavouring.
  2. Bulk scale trials.
  3. Compiling the range of flavours possible into a palatable beverage.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?

Collaborations to provide specialist input.

You can contact Keith at

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Charles Bavington, GlycoMar

Charles Bavington, GlycoMar

What is your background and current job role?

I am the founder of GlycoMar and a biochemist with over 15 years experience in marine biotechnology. I graduated of the University of Edinburgh and then completed my PhD at the same university, studying proteoglycan metabolism in cartilage. This was followed by postdoctoral research at Dunstaffnage marine lab studying invertebrate glycans and cell adhesion. Subsequently I worked for Integrin Advanced Biosystems Ltd, a marine biotechnology and testing company, holding the positions of Operations Manager and Research & Development Manager. My commercial interests are in entrepeneurship and development of effective life science innovation business models. My scientific interest is in glycobiology and its role in cell-cell interactions.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

GlycoMar is a biotechnology company discovering and developing products for the healthcare and personal care markets. The company, founded in 2005, has an established discovery platform technology based on glycobiology products, which generates valuable intellectual property. The company evaluates the functional properties of its novel glycobiology products to identify the best candidates for development and the best market application, which include pharmaceutical, consumer healthcare, cosmetic and nutraceutical.

GlycoMar is developing novel consumer healthcare products addressing inflammatory disorders such as eczema and rhinitis, and pharmaceutical products that address unmet clinical needs in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease. The company is developing cosmetic ingredients for the skincare market and nutraceutical ingredients for the supplements and functional food markets. Our development programme is being carried out both in house and with commercial partners.

GlycoMar seeks to develop its discoveries to generate value through out licensing. The value of GlycoMar’s technology has been demonstrated through early stage Licensing and Collaboration deals.

We have developed and marketed a novel polysaccharide product from the marine microalga Prasinococcus capsulatus. The product is used in cosmetic products, healthcare products, and is being developed as a sugar replacement for use in confectionary. We continue to develop new polysaccharides for healthcare application. We are working on microalgae, cyanobacteria, and macroalgae products. Our covers all aspects of discovery and development of novel polysaccharides.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?

The biggest challenges we face are associated with product yield and production scale-up.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?

Increase yield by manipulation of transport processes involved in growth of photosynthetic organisms and production of polysaccharide products.

You can contact Charles at

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Henrik Hagemann, CustoMem

Henrik Hagemann, CustoMem

What is your background and current job role?

My background is a clash of technical and enterprise, coming with an Imperial College London Biomedical Engineering background (1st class MEng 2015, awarded the only Imperial outstanding achievement medal out of 2200 graduates) where I focused on synthetic biology and biomaterials.

My research focused on synthetic biology tools, as I contributed to a genetic toolkit for biofuels production in thermophilic bacteria (Geobacillus, ACS synbio 2016). As part of Imperial College’s iGEM team in 2014, I co-developed a genetic toolkit for engineering control of bacterial cellulose production in engineered cells (Florea, Hagemann et al PNAS 2016 This took me deep into the area of crossing biological membranes (CBM), as the bacterial cellulose fibres are made inside cells and excreted across the cell membrane.

As part of CustoMem, we’re commercialising cellulose based bioadsorbents as a granular water purification product removing contaminants existing biological & chemical processes cannot degrade in industrial water treatment. The granular product retrofits in existing Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) vessels, enables recovery & recycling of contaminants and operates with low energy. The granular product is produced by cell factories using the tools & know-how developed during our research.

My job role as CEO puts me in close contact with collaborators & potential customers around alignment of our tech development with their needs. I also troubleshoot the technical challenges, fundraise, and manage expectations within our team & externally to shareholders.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

CustoMem is secreting polymers (cellulose) from genetically engineered cell factories, and as such we are currently focusing on 3 IBBE projects:

  • Using the genetic toolkit to further refine the granular product for our chosen contaminant removal
  • Genetic engineering of the cell factories to produce a granular material focused on removal of new contaminants combined with chemical processing of the granular product
  • Optimisation of the genetic pathways for production of granular product with an eye to customise the solution for our customers’ environment

The granular product is sterilised after secretion and production, so there are no living cells in the final product. The granular media is produced to medical grade standards, despite being used in industrial wastewater settings, as an assurance of the sterility of the granular product.

In the future we are looking into collaborating on a number of projects including biologically based recovery of the contaminants captured, remodifying the cell factories to use waste media feedstock, and developing alternative polymers that can be produced biologically with relevance to water treatment.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?

  • Scale up operation of the granular media in existing GAC hardware
  • Tech alignment with customer needs
  • Regulatory pathway for the products as they will be the first customisable bioadsorbents produced by engineered biology for water purification
  • Large scale recovery and recycling of the contaminants into high value products (elutriation)
  • Price competitiveness, thoroughly assessed at every stage. The key here is taking advantage of the patented biological production genetic toolkit. Currently price competitive with Granular Activated Carbon with a safety factor.
  • Market penetration of granular product
  • Building the infrastructure and supply net for shipping the granular product, regenerating the spent material, elutriation of contaminants and handling the relationship with supply chain network partners.
  • Relocating to larger scale processing labs in the UK
  • Managing large scale bulk material production site


How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?

For CustoMem, CBMNet is a perfect match in terms of alignment with our tech. As such, CBMNet members can help by collaborating on one of the 3 research projects taking place in our organisation, engage in conversations about complimentary research projects to engage in or as exposure to relevant talent when it comes to recruiting new staff. We’re always hiring, and sometimes tailor roles specifically to a candidate.

There might also be opportunity to invite partners from CBMNet into an industrial research consortium for our current funding proposals for EU, and UK based funding schemes. With the great potential of IBBE and its major challenges when it comes to commercialisation, we’re always more than happy to help with advice about any of the steps required.

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Alexandros Chatgilialoglu, CEO, Remembrane Srl


Alexandros Chatgilialoglu, CEO, Remembrane Srl

What is your background and current job role?

In 2010 I co-founded Remembrane srl, of which I am CEO and I am in charge of business development, strategy and sales. Remembrane focuses on membrane lipidomics of in-vitro cultures by developing customized in-vitro lipid supplementation in order to address major culturing issues or boost specific bioprocesses.

I obtained a PhD in Experimental Pathology at the University of Bologna, Italy, on membrane lipidomics of in-vitro cultures. I gained international experience at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada and in Silicon Valley, California, USA, where I was awarded the Certificate in Technology Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University through a Fulbright fellowship. I experienced the start-up life launch and operations at Lipinutragen S.r.l., a spin-off company of the National Research Council of Bologna, and at SiteOne Therapeutics Inc., a Stanford-based pharmaceutical company. I obtained a Master in Business Administration at Bologna Alma Business School in 2015.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

Remembrane leads the cell culture technology a step foward, by envisaging the cell membrane network and its lipid composition as a cornerstone of cell physiology. Our current research work is aiming at ameliorating the production process and/or increase the yields of industrial bioproducts such as proteins, viruses, cells, APIs. With this purpose, we have developed customised lipid supplements, called Refeed, able to improve specific biological parameters of cells relevant to industrial bioprocesses.

Our customized lipid supplements are suitable for any in-vitro protocol and cell culture system, ranging from flasks to bioreactors. Targets of our lipid supplements can go from simple microbes such as bacteria and yeasts, to complex insect, plant and mammalian cells. Our supplements can be animal-free, fully synthetic, GMP-grade. Remembrane is fully flexible, with excellent experience and track record, and with a valuable internal database on multiple cell culture systems.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?

In the next few years Remembrane’s objective is to obtain multiple proof of concepts in different applications of industrial biotechnology. In particular, the supplementation of a multitude of different cell types for the production of a wide variety of relevant bioproducts will be the target of our efforts and collaborations. Moreover, another key challenge will be to standardise our supplement formulations, in order to be able to use them for a cluster of similar applications; this will facilitate the commercialisation of our Refeed products in many different fields of industrial biotechnology.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?

We are constantly looking for collaborations that will help us in testing our technology on new bioproduction processes, such as new cell types and/or new bioproducts. Therefore, any CBMNet member who is interested in should feel free to contact us to explore new ideas for collaboration. We also welcome the opportunity to explore joint grant applications.

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Thierry de Lumley, Development Director, The Cosmo Company


Thierry de Lumley, Development Director, The Cosmo Company

What is your background and current job role?

My background is essentially technical, I graduated from Ecole Normale Supérieure de Chimie de Lille (MSc), a French engineering school and I received a PhD from the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas in Austin. I pursued a career in academia at the Center for Protein Engineering at the University of Cambridge, UK before joining the R&D department of Corning inc. I am currently the chief business development officer for The CoSMo Company, a fast growing FrenchTech start-up, based in Lyon, France and the Silicon Valley. CoSMo stands for complex systems modelling. The Company builds revolutionary software applications to help companies deal with their digital transformation with a focus on the design and operation of their complex interconnected systems.

Over the last years CoSMo has been developing game changing applications in the field of energy, pandemics and bioproduction based on the world first systemic modelling and simulation platform for industries. We strive to make sense out of the dramatic increase of complexity of our world combined with the explosion of Big Data.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

CoSMo is involved with several projects in the field of biopharmaceuticals production with leading pharmaceutical companies.

For example CELLPAT a government funded project aims at managing and controlling bioproduction processes in the areas of cell culture and production of molecules and viral particles. This approach is part of the initiatives “Process Analytical Technology” and “Quality By Design” encouraged by Health authorities.  CELLPAT will allow continuous monitoring of a large number of parameters. Computer models, incorporating these physical and biochemical parameters and dynamic simulation of the process will result in an increase in the management and control of the online processes. The developed tools will have further applications in other areas such as diagnostics, fermentation, food, biofuel, purification and formulation.

Other project involves the simulation of various cell types production (mammalian and bacteria) in a wide range of cell culture media to optimise biomass production and target protein production. For these CoSMo has used dFBA approaches and couples them with a macroscopic approach of CFD to couple biology of the cells with the physical-chemistry of the reactor in the simulation.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?

One of the main challenges is to get a clear understanding of the metabolic pathways specifically on more confidential cell types that are the preferred choice of the industry but for which little knowledge is available in the literature. Another challenge is to develop an approach that can be as generic as possible to limit specific in-silico development on each new culture.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?

The CoSMo Company is a software editor and rely on partners to co-develop generic application in various fields. CoSMo bring a strong background in complex systems modelling and a unique development platform, CBMNet coud provide the biological expertise, the mechanism description and the data needed to calibrate and valide the models.


SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: J.J. Fung, Co-Founder, Director Protein Sciences R&D, ProNovus Bioscience


Dr J.J. Fung, Co-Founder, Director Protein Sciences R&D, ProNovus Bioscience

What is your background and current job role?

My background is in membrane protein research, with a focus on ABC/SLC transporters and G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). I obtained my Ph.D. in Molecular & Cellular Physiology from Stanford University and performed Postdoctoral work at the Stanford University School of Medicine. I have spent extensive time studying membrane protein structure and function using biophysical methods including FRET and crystallography, as well as characterizing ligand binding in support of drug discovery programs. I co-founded ProNovus Bioscience with a goal of providing solutions for difficult to study membrane proteins. Currently, I am in charge of generating new transporter and GPCR products for drug screening, as well as directing efforts for expressing and purifying membrane proteins for drug discovery campaigns in collaboration with industrial and academic groups.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?
A majority of the work we perform at ProNovus Bioscience is in line with several aims of IBBE. In particular, we focus on studying mechanisms by which substrates are transported into and out of cells (ABC and SLC transporters) as well as the effect of these transported substances on cell function via activation of GPCRs. For this, we have generated a variety of unique cell membrane-derived and artificial vesicles to model transport and signalling properties. Furthermore, our scientists have vast expertise (>20 years) in expressing and purifying various membrane proteins that are notoriously difficult to obtain. Our research group has established methods for vector construction, expression and purification from a variety of heterologous sources as well as expertise in assay development for functional characterization of membrane proteins. These methods and know-how at ProNovus Bioscience should be beneficial to various aspects of CBMNet Aims such as (1) improvement of influx/efflux of molecules across membranes (2) hijacking transporters for IBBE, to name a few.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?
Studying membrane proteins is always an issue: even for well-studied members of this super family. With the recent explosion of crystal structures for GPCRs, we are learning excellent methods for expression and purification for this class of proteins. However, the same cannot be said for membrane transporters, where such literature reports are not widely available. Research in this area is lacking and should hopefully improve in the coming years with better understanding of membrane protein expression, purification and stability. This will be an important challenge to overcome in order to exploit transporters for IBBE purposes.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?
CBMNet has a strong network of groups interested in membrane transport. We are always looking for partners and collaborators that could use our expertise in membrane protein production and purification, and similarly, learning from members what novel applications there may be for membrane proteins that we work with or may be of interest in the future. CBMNet members interested in our expertise should contact us, we are open to collaborate on joint grant applications or other collaborations that could aid in the missions of CBMNet.

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Tosin Doherty, Senior Scientist, Industrial Biotechnolgy and Biorefining, CPI

tosin doherty CPIPrint

Tosin Doherty, Senior Scientist, Industrial Biotechnolgy and Biorefining, CPI

What is your background and current job role?

After graduating with a BSc in Biochemistry in Nigeria, I obtained a Masters in Biotechnology from UMIST. Following this I completed a PhD with Professor Gill Stephens at the University of Manchester, exploring and characterising whole-cell biocatalytic activity from a thermophilic culture collection (made available by Green Biologics Limited) for amine production.  On completing my PhD, I joined ReBio Technologies Limited (formerly TMO Renewables Limited) as a Research Scientist working on process development for the production of biofuels investigating cost effective pre-treatments, enzyme hydrolysis and fermentations of various lignocellulosic waste feedstocks.  I also led projects related to strain optimisation i.e., de-constituting and understanding the mode of action of pre-treatment associated inhibitors and toxic end products, and using classical mutagenesis tools and screens to develop and test wild type and engineered bacteria and yeast strains.

I joined CPI in 2014 as a Senior Scientist in the Industrial Biotechnology and Biorefining (IBB) platform.  My role in the lab is quite diverse: understanding and optimising biochemical processes of our clients and collaborators, working on topics within White Biotechnology through statistical methodologies. Another element of the job involves characterising these bioprocesses under predicted end-use stress conditions in scale-down to highlight de-risking studies required at the strain engineering stage as well as determining correlation patterns of operating and environmental parameters on cell physiology. Outside the lab, I work with the Business Development Team in the IBB unit in providing expert technical input and guidance to support the evaluation of commercial opportunities and the development of public/private projects and consortia.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

The Industrial Biotechnology and Biorefining technology platform within CPI aims to bridge the gap between early stage concepts and scalable commercial processes related to IBBE. To this end, we have a number of on-going collaborative projects in which we are helping to de-risk process development and these include the :

  • Evaluation of quiescent cell technology (Q-Cells) under process relevant conditions by monitoring the production of 3-hydroxybutyrate, a chiral molecule which is a building block for biodegradable polymers (bioplastics),
  • Development of the production process for FeedKind™ protein, a new fish feed ingredient via gas fermentation,
  • Proof of concept evaluation of D-lactic acid production, for the manufacture of bio based products such as high performance bioplastics, by fermentation using second generation waste derived feedstocks,
  • Process development for the production of bio-based chemicals from lignin at lab scale suitable for industrial testing,
  • Feasibility study of succinic acid production from waste glycerol by fermentation

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?

Due to the nature of CPI’s business, the varied number of IBBE-related projects we are involved in often means that we handle a diversity of microorganisms for development into commercial/ large scale processes.  In the scale-down evaluations of microbial product toxicity, one of the challenges has often been to determine the effectiveness of comparative growth screening studies of WT and intermediate strains when the final production strain(s) is still being developed.  These screening studies involve monitoring the growth of strains in the presence of the product or intermediate of interest under operating and environmental parameters.  We know this is a useful strategy for assessing microbial tolerance/ growth in the presence of feedstock inhibitors naturally present outside the cell; however it is still unclear whether this is effective for screening strains with the improved ability to export desired products produced within cells into the external environment.  Genome-wide and transcriptomics analyses are useful alternatives and complementing technologies, however some of the industrially relevant chasis/ strains evaluated have un-characterised membrane systems unlike those published in the literature (for E. coli or Pseudomonas spp) and the high costs often associated with techniques such as RNA sequencing often makes it non-viable in collaborative projects with a short life-span and limited funds.

 How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?

Collaboratative R&D in understanding and elucidating mechanisms of microbial tolerance to biosynthesied chemicals and products in different industrially relevant host strains and development of ‘other’ phenotypic methods that can be used in screening for tolerance to target products.

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Joe Adams, Biocatalysis and Synthetic Chemistry Manager, GSK

joe adams download

Dr Joe Adams, Biocatalysis and Synthetic Chemistry Manager, GSK

What is your background and current job role?
I am based within GlaxoSmithKline as part of the R&D organisation, specifically the AC (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient Chemistry) department as a team manager supporting synthetic biochemistry. The team is focused on using biotechnology to develop improved (more sustainable, faster, shorter, cheaper) routes to small molecule manufacture. Much of our work is focused around biocatalysis but we also do some fermentations to natural products and are increasingly considering synthetic biology approaches.
My background has chemistry at its core with a PhD in organic chemistry followed by a couple of post docs with more of an emphasis on biocatalysis. I joined GSK in 1994 and have remained with the company ever since in various roles. In the last decade I have been much more involved in biotechnology as I sought to grow a team in the UK capable of taking advantage of the many advances in biology to improve our synthetic approaches. This team is now part of a global initiative, focused predominantly in the UK and US, and includes multiple different disciplines (eg biochemistry, bioinformatics, computational sciences, chemistry, enzymology, enzyme engineering, fermentation, molecular biology…..) from different departments within the organisation.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?
We undertake a large number of different IBBE related projects. GSKs largest volume drug is the antibiotic amoxicillin with annual manufacturing volume approaching 3000 tonnes. Most of our projects are much smaller than this and would typically involved using a well developed class of enzymes (eg ketoreductases or transaminases) in one stage of a chemical process. We have had success with many different classes of enzymes such as enoate reductases, epoxide hydrolases and monooxygenases – none of which is particularly well developed today. To cater for the varied nature of the projects, and to develop new tools for the future, means we have adopted an open innovation approach to our R&D and have many partners both in industry and academia. Our largest single collaboration would be with Codexis to bring their enzyme evolution technology into GSK and apply it to our projects. We have many links through to academia in the UK from simple CASE awards to large multi-partner collaborations (eg CoEBio3, IBioIC, different NIBBS or the Innovative Medicines Initiative collaboration CHEM21).

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?
There are multiple challenges!
1. More classes of different, developed enzyme panels across a greater range of substrate chemical space so that promising hits can be quickly identified.
2. Improved (automated?) approaches for the screening of enzymes against the desired transformation.
3. Even with a comprehensive set of tools to enable enzyme evolution it still typically takes months to go from a hit to get the desired protein with the desired properties (activity, stability, stereoselectivity etc) suitable for full manufacture. This is often not a good fit for project timelines. It’s a commitment. Ideally we would wish for this process to be much faster, more of an experiment.
4. More productive processes for enzyme production. Greater expression levels, higher ODs, improved production strains, simpler downstream processing.
5. More productive ways to use biocatalysts (eg continuous / flow approaches, membrane technologies).
6. Improved methods (in silico, in vitro and in vivo) for the application of synthetic biology to develop new ‘cell factory’ approaches, using human-designed biochemical pathways, to starting materials, intermediates or APIs at concentrations that could be adopted by industry.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?
As a global pharma company GSK have a broad range of projects and subsequently a wide interest in new methodologies or the novel application of older methodologies. We are constantly seeking better ways to conduct our R&D and networking across partners with aligned interests from both academia and industry is a key component of this.

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Richard Hitchman, Operations Manager, Protein Production, Evotec

1fb81dc evotec_logo

Richard Hitchman, Operations Manager, Protein Production, Evotec

What is your background and current job role?
My background is in baculovirus molecular biology and recombinant protein production. I took my undergraduate degree at Coventry University where I graduated with a first class honours in Applied Ecology. I was then offered a Ph.D. with Professor Robert Possee at the NERC Institute of Virology and Environmental Microbiology (IVEM) and Professor Linda King at Oxford Brookes University (OBU), investigating genetic variability in baculovirus populations. Following this, I undertook postdoctoral research applying the knowledge gained during my PhD towards improvement of the baculovirus expression system, initially at OBU and then Oxford Expression Technologies Ltd, an OBU spin-out company. Four years ago I moved to Evotec to set up a baculovirus expression facility and I am currently Principal Scientist within the Structural Biology group. My current role is the operational management of the Protein Production team; we carry out novel construct design, protein expression in bacteria and eukaryotic cells, protein purification and analysis, high-throughput protein production and isotope labelling for NMR.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?
Within Evotec we are working on many IBBE related projects. As a drug discovery alliance and development partnership company most of them are within disease areas such as neuroscience, pain, metabolic diseases, oncology, inflammation and infectious diseases. Protein production is one of the first steps in the drug discovery process and as such we are responsible for ensuring a reliable supply of soluble, active protein of sufficient quantity to provide accurate functional and structural information of the disease-associated proteins. These may be cytosolic, secreted or membrane proteins and each target offer novel challenges in their construct design and production.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?
Difficult to express proteins are often a bottleneck in early phase drug discovery. Expression levels are generally low, proteins are often misfolded or insoluble and consequently inactive. One of the main challenges is identifying ways to improve the capture of these proteins, with native structure and biological function. Novel production systems and the development of high throughput technologies are areas which could be very beneficial in directing these efforts in the future.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?
We are always interested in new technologies that can help solve protein production problems; for example, novel expression vectors, new cloning methods, improved expression systems and more efficient chromatography methods. CBMNet is a great way to connect with other researchers in this field and we welcome the opportunity to explore joint grant applications or similar collaborations.

You can contact Richard by emailing him at

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Elspeth Bartlet, Head of Communications, BioVale


Elspeth Bartlet, Head of Communications, BioVale

What is your background and current job role?
After receiving my PhD from Imperial College and working in agricultural research, I moved to a career in science communication. I managed communications for a diverse group of science-based organisations including Rothamsted Research, the University of York’s Artemisia Research Project and the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine before joining BioVale in 2014.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related projects are currently of interest to your organisation?
BioVale is a relatively new initiative to promote and develop innovation for the bioeconomy in the Yorkshire and Humber region. By bioeconomy we mean the production of renewable biological resources and their conversion into food, feed, energy, chemicals and other materials. It encompasses both industrial biotechnology and agri-tech. The Yorkshire and Humber region has an outstanding complement of bio-based research, industry and agriculture. Our role is to both advance the sector and to establish the region’s reputation as an important hub for bioeconomy research and innovation.

We support and promote:
• networking and dialogue
• research, development and demonstration
• regional bio-based supply chains
• inward investment
• trade/export.
We are supported and steered by regional industry, research organisations, higher education and government.

What do you think the challenges related to IBBE in the next 1-5 years are?

We have identified the following barriers that threaten to prevent the region from successfully capitalising on the bioeconomy.
• Regional bioeconomy assets are not fully integrated and the collaborations needed to build new supply chains are not in place.
• The region lacks international recognition as an important centre for the bioeconomy.
• There are skill shortages in the bioeconomy workforce.
• Local companies are significantly underperforming in international trade and innovation.
We are working with regional, national and international partners to address these problems.

To get in touch with Elspeth please email

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Matthew Hodges, Strategy & Business Development at Oxford Biotrans Ltd

2b4407c download

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

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Reuben Carr, Head of Chemical Biology, INGENZA

reuben  Ingenza

Dr Reuben Carr, Head of Chemical Biology at Ingenza

What is your background and current job role?

My undergraduate training was carried out at University of Southampton where I graduated with double first class honours in Chemistry and Biochemistry. Following this I completed a PhD with Professor Nick Turner at the University of Edinburgh, developing novel biocatalytic processes to develop efficient and novel manufacturing routes for the preparation of pharmaceutical (chiral amine) intermediates.

Ingenza was spun out of the School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh, initially based on commercially exploiting the technological bioprocesses I worked on during my PhD. On completing my PhD I joined Ingenza as senior scientist providing key technical expertise of biocatalytic processes learnt during my studies and applied this into an industrial setting. During this period I was instrumental as part of the team that successfully tech transferred cost effective enzymatic bioprocesses developed at Ingenza with manufacturing partners around the globe.

As with any growing company, Ingenza has grown and adapted from where it began, today Ingenza is a lead provider of synthetic biology services to the Industrial Biotechnology (IB) sector and my current job title is Head of Chemical Biology. I have responsibilities and oversight at the technological interface of biology and chemistry disciplines within the scientific services that Ingenza provides to its clients and customers. I project manage teams of scientists and I lead the delivery of workplan objectives to fulfil customer expectations for IB processes at Ingenza. I have played in a key part in forging long standing relationships and contracts with major end user clients wishing to develop tomorrow’s sustainable bioprocesses using the extensive knowledge base and scientific capabilities Ingenza provides to the IB sector.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

At Ingenza we have a number of IBBE projects under development. These projects encompass biofuels, wherein we engineer yeasts to maximise efficiencies and cost effectiveness for ethanol production. We also undertake several materials and chemicals related projects, where existing market facing customers are seeking either chemical identical or new functionality from their respective products. We are increasingly finding needs in the conventional chemical industries seeking innovative ways to improve their manufacturing routes particularly those that can lessen the reliance of petrochemical feedstocks as raw materials. Bioprocessing and fermentation routes offer a new perspective and opportunity to deliver this need, by way of example Ingenza is partnered with companies such as Lucite International and Invista to produce biobased methacrylate and nylon intermediates respectively.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?
Despite the significant advances in the fields of biotechnology (i.e. proteo-, gene-, transcript-metabol-‘omics, DNA synthesis, DNA assembly, microbial engineering, etc…) there are still barriers that prevent uptake and widespread deployment of biobased manufacturing solutions in UK industry and further afield. Gaps in knowledge of enzymatic specificities and ability to rapidly redesign function to meet an industrial requirement are lacking. This limits the synthetic biology tools to act and deploy catalytic cascades for assembly of novel fermentative pathways to output industrial chemicals. In addition to this the necessary export machinery to transfer the chemical from inside to outside the cell are needed to achieve high product titres in fermentations to meet commercially competitive efficiencies of space-time-yield production for biobased products. How do we identify cellular transporters for any given chemical pathway product? If transporting function is unknown should we engineer a progenitor wild type transporter or prospect for function using wildtype ‘omics datasets?

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?

CBMNet has an important role to play in identifying and locating effective transporters that can readily and easily transferred into heterologous microbial hosts to improve IB production efficiencies. Despite efforts to build efficient metabolic flux to industrial products within a microbial host, if the exporting machinery is absent or lacking the industrial process will not become realised and commercial exploitation will ultimately fail. Ingenza’s participation in CBMNet is to discover and learn the tools that allow us to rapidly identify suitable cellular transporters. How do we locate a suitable transporter for any given chemical target product? How do we benchmark and assay any given transporter in its efficiency as product exporter so we can be confident it fulfils competitive space-time-yield requirements for an economic IB process?

You can contact Reuben at

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Pattanathu Rahman, Founding Director at Teegene Biotech Ltd

logo_06.06.2015 Dr Pattanathu Rahman has spun a company out of research at Teesside University and has been nominated for an award, pictured at Wilton Centre where his office is based. 4/2/15


Dr Pattanathu Rahman, Founding Director at Teegene Biotech Ltd

What is your background and current job role?
I obtained my BSc, MSc, and MPhil Distinctions in Biology followed by a PhD in Microbiology from Bharathiar University (Tamil Nadu, India) in 2000 – studying the role of microbial biosurfactants for oil spill remediation funded by CSIR Senior Research Fellowship. I have been offered a Postdoctoral Fellowship on the ‘Challenges in Biosurfactant fermentation’ at University of Ulster in 2000-2001. In 2001, I took up the US DOE sponsored Research Scientist position at Brookhaven National Laboratory; New York (USA) to work on the mineral-microbe association and their regulation of enzyme catalysed transformations. From 2003-2007, I worked at the ERDF/HEIF Bioremediation programme at Teesside University and took part in DEFRA funded Bio-recycling: Resource recovery and reduction of oily hazardous wastes via biosurfactant washing and bioremediation and EU LIFE 3 programme on Biomass, Remediation, Regeneration (BioReGen): Reusing Brownfield Sites for Renewable Energy Crops. I then took the academic position to lead MSc Biotechnology Course at Teesside University. I coordinated BfB KTN sponsored FROPTOP project (2008): ‘Exploring the biocatalytic pathways of the microbial biosurfactant production from biodiesel industry residual glycerine’ and this work led to the creation of the spin-out company TeeGene Biotech based at the Wilton Centre near Middlesbrough. As a founding director of the company, I am responsible for the business development and operations. Recently, we have secured funding from Commonwealth Scholarship Commission’s Scholarships and appointed researchers to optimise biosurfactant production using bacteria from environmental samples and biosynthesis of nanomaterials using medicinal plants.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

TeeGene has expertise in bioremediation as well as waste management and has commercialised biotechnology based on bioreactors and bio-product development. One of TeeGene’s aims is to supply biotech based solutions for large industries such as, waste management and biosustainable production of industrial platform chemicals and surfactants.

TeeGene Biotech, is part of a consortium of experts and industries that develop biobased technology to capture precious metals. The University of York, along with TeeGene Biotech Ltd and Johnson Matthey will be working on the project ‘Plants as Nanoparticle Producers’ funded through a CBMNet Proof of Concept Grant. Platinum group metals (PGMs) are used in many industrial applications, often as nanoparticles (NPs). PGMs are rare materials, making them highly valuable, but their increasing dispersal in the environment is of growing concern. The metal accumulating ability of plants can be used to capture metals from the environment. These high value products could help satisfy demand for precious metals in industry and medicine. This work will integrate TeeGene’s core technologies and business aspirations with the recovery of high value materials using biobased technologies to create a central enabling technology for metallic waste management. It will pump-prime one of TeeGene’s business models – the development of integrated biobased technology on waste streams. This project will be used to commercialise the technology after feasibility of the large scale precious metal recovery.

Bio-actives from microalgae: Algal biosurfactants still represents a major untapped and unexplored area of research. This area is gaining much attention in relation to potential bioemulsifier properties in food and bio-therapeutic sector. An innovative project by a TeeGene to extract high value chemicals from algae has been given financial backing by HVCfPNet. The BBSRC grant will enable TeeGene Biotech to undertake a project to explore the use of naturally occurring microorganisms, microalgae, in the treatment of industrial waste water as well as their potential as a high value chemical ingredient. The company is also developing links with the National Horizon Centre, which is under development adjacent to Teesside University’s campus in Darlington and Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC) at York.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?
1. Commercial feasibility to manufacture biosurfactants in industrial scale could be a challenge
2. Foaming of Biosurfactants during fermentation is one of the key unavoidable challenges
3. Improving the yield rate of pure compounds and enhance functionalities to focus on biopharma and personal care applications

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?

CBMNet members can contact TeeGene to develop projects on bionanomaterials or biosurfactants. A group of biosurfactants with cytotoxic properties on cancer cell lines are good source to target anticancer treatment. Similarly group of nanomaterials with anticancer property also promising for cancer drug development. Biosurfactants can be used as a stabiliser and transported to target cancer cells using nanoparticles. The molecular and cellular interactions of this study needs to be explored. This will open-up a number of discoveries for cancer treatment. CBMNet members could help us to develop novel metabolic engineering route for biosurfactant production to enhance cell signalling pathways or to explore molecular mechanisms in biosurfactant mediated drug delivery routes.

You can contact Pattanathu at

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Steve Taylor, Founder and CSO at Celbius Ltd

celbius steve taylor

Steve Taylor, Founder and Director at Celbius Ltd

What is your background and current job role?
I originally trained in biochemistry, studying at Imperial College in the mid-1980’s, where I stayed on to complete a PhD in microbial biotransformations. I joined a Cambridge-based biotech start up called Enzymatix in 1989, to start building a technology capability in biocatalysis. The company evolved into Chiroscience, encompassing both its own drug discovery and technology services for production of chiral intermediates in the pharmaceutical industry. The latter activity was separated as Chirotech, and by this time I was running a biocatalysis group comprising enzyme discovery, development and application. When Dow Chemical acquired Chirotech the group was also looking at the use of biocatalysis in drug discovery. Preferring a small company environment, I left Dow and began performing some independent consultancy work, for example, helping Almac Sciences to establish themselves in biocatalysis. Two years ago I formed Celbius to commercialise the application of ultrasound in bioprocessing, since biotransformations, fermentations and extraction processes can all benefit from this technology in terms of yields and reaction rates. Celbius is my main focus today, where I am developing the business both scientifically and commercially through the use of seed funding and grants.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?
Celbius has an eclectic range of IBBE-related projects at various stages including biomass products for energy, novel agricultural applications of phytochemical extracts (including sonic-assisted extraction technology) and use of low power ultrasound in secondary metabolic processes and in other fermentation processes for enhanced protein production.
The common factor is the use of ultrasound- “sonobioprocessing”.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?
Most Celbius projects involve the use of low to medium power ultrasound, where acoustic energy is applied to liquids or slurries, for example fermentation cultures, bi-phasic biotransformations or solvent-extraction of comminuted plant materials. One of the main challenges is to achieve a much broader uptake of ultrasonic technology in the bioprocessing industries, and this will be achieved by deployment of much lower cost non-intrusive flow cells (no probes to corrode and contaminate products) than are currently available. The other challenge is to more comprehensively understand the effects that are observed. A benefit such as increased product yield may be a consequence of one or more factors such as high medium turbulence and shear forces, reduction of particle size, and in the case of living cells, improved membrane transport and modulation of gene expression caused by mechanical stresses. A “know-how to know-why” transition is desired.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?
In the context of this NIBB, any member, academic or industrial, who is developing a bioprocess that involves transport of substrates or products across membranes might be interested in talking to us, since low power ultrasound can be of benefit to transport processes. This could also include the formation of artificial membranes such as liposomes and other particles. We are interested in collaboration via joint grant applications but also available to provide technical support and guidance to process development and equipment for all aspects of sonobioprocessing.

You can contact Steve at

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Mark Blight, Senior New Product Development Scientist – Technical Capabilities, Biocatalysts Ltd

Biocats Logo RGB_large Mark Blight - Molecular Cloning & Protein Expression Scientist

Mark Blight, Senior New Product Development Scientist – Technical Capabilities, Biocatalysts Ltd

What is your background and current job role?

I obtained my B.Sc. (Hons) from Nottingham University in 1986 and then went on to study for a Ph.D. at Leicester University, Department of Genetics, on ABC Transporters. Following a brief MRC Post-Doc I took on a CNRS Poste-Rouge, followed by a short Research Associate position at the Rockefeller University, New York prior to obtaining a permanent position with the CNRS back in France and working on the molecular mechanisms of host-pathogen interactions. In 2010 I joined Biocatalysts Ltd in Cardiff as a Senior Scientist and now am responsible for Technical Capabilities. This role involves identifying the key scientific capabilities required for Biocatalysts business development and growth.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

In the last 6 years Biocatalysts Ltd. has expanded into the IBBE market with the production of recombinant enzymes for the food, fine chemical, flavour, fragrance and pharmaceutical sectors. We have developed IBBE platforms and the associated technology to provide streamlined, effective and efficient production of recombinant enzymes in a variety of prokaryotic and eukaryotic hosts through fermentation and downstream processing to product conditioning and shipment. All aspects of IBBE relevant to commercial recombinant enzyme production are relevant to our business interests.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?
One of the biggest challenges to Biocatalysts Ltd for the production of a wide variety of recombinant enzymes for an equally diverse range of applications is achieving the cost-effective product yield, quality and application specification required by our customers. With a diverse range of recombinant expression platforms, developing technologies that translate across these platforms as homogeneously as possible for lean manufacturing is also a significant challenge.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?
Biocatalysts Ltd. is involved in a number of BBSRC NIBB projects from Business Innovation Vouchers to Proof-of-Concept projects. We currently have one project with Newcastle University through CBMNet with Prof. Jeff Errington investigating developing Bacillus subtilis recombinant enzyme expression for broader applications in IB. Since several of Biocatalysts Ltd. expression platforms involve protein secretion, we are particularly interested in contacts with CBMNet members with innovative approaches to maximising recombinant protein secretion that translates to IBBE platforms.

You can contact Mark at

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Doug Cossar, Research Manager of Biotechnology, Croda


Doug Cossar, Research Manager of Biotechnology, Croda

What is your background and current job role?
I obtained my BSc in Microbiology from the University of Dundee in 1978, followed by a PhD from Herriot-Watt – studying the physiology of a 4 member microbial community growing on benzoate. I returned to Dundee Department of Biological Sciences to do a post-doctoral fellowship on enzyme control in cyanobacteria. In 1985 I took up a post at the Universite de Fribourg in Switzerland to work on expression of elements of the cellulase complex in a thermophilic fungus. From 1985 to 1991 I worked at the Centre for Applied Microbiology Research at Porton Down on aspects of microbial physiology, from behaviour of GMM’s to extreme thermophiles, with an occasional foray into biosensor development. I then took a position in process development for a biopharmaceutical start-up in Toronto, Canada (Cangene Corp) where I remained for 15 years – working through all aspects of process development (seed bank to finished product) including validation for cGMP manufacturing. Following 4 years at the Structural Genomics Consortium in Toronto (high throughput cloning and protein structural biology) I took up my present position at Croda Europe Ltd, to manage the Biotechnology Research Group in Widnes. My role is to develop route to manufacture for biotechnology-derived speciality chemicals for delivery across an array of market sectors, from Health Care (eg excipients for drug formulation or speciality lipids) to the Oil Field (surface-active materials). In this position, I am developing a network of collaborators to bring academic research into Industrial Biotechnology.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?
Croda is a relative newcomer to IB – essentially developing a product pipeline and commissioning a manufacturing capability over the past 6 years. Some of the projects being developed include biosurfactants, speciality natural products, and biopolymers. This work is largely underpinned by significant screening collaborations to identify products of potential interest.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?
Product yield is the most significant challenge. Microbes typically produce only the minimum product required for their needs. In one sense, this is to our advantage since it tends to have evolved highly efficient materials and to foster multi-functionality – both of which are identified key trends in the speciality chemicals industry.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?
The biological membrane presents multiple challenges for a company such as Croda. In some cases, we would prefer that the product is exported to the medium where it can accumulate at much higher levels (total, rather than actual concentration) and thus give enhanced yield. In this scenario, we would be looking for exporters with a particular, or an enhanced, activity. We should also not neglect substrate uptake – both for product-related precursors (which may be non-natural) and nutrient (especially to add capacity to utilise waste stream materials or to bias metabolic flux to desirable pathways). In a third situation, IB products often present biologically relevant activity – such as anti-microbial, or anti-oxidant. Here, the concerns are about understanding how these products interact with biological membranes – whether in a positive (ie traversing the membrane to be functional inside the cell) or a negative (disrupting membranes with adverse effect on cell function) mode. To date, I have found CBMNet to be a highly attractive community with broad expertise in membrane biology and we have developed several interesting and useful collaborations through Business Interaction Vouchers and Proof of Concept applications.

You can contact Doug at

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Richard Alldread, Head of Innovation, CPI Biologics

logo   Richard Alldread

Richard Alldread, Head of Innovation, CPI Biologics

What is your background and current job role?

My background is in protein engineering and recombinant protein expression. Initially with a view to understanding the nature of thermostability in enzymes from thermophilic bacteria. From there I developed prokaryotic and eukaryotic recombinant expression systems for a variety of uses (drug discovery, diagnostics, biotherapeutics). For the last 10 years or so my focus has been predominantly on the development and manufacture of biotherapeutics.

My current role at CPI is Head of Innovation, this role focuses on scouting for and developing new technologies that can be applied to biotherapeutic product development and manufacture, a key part of this is the formation of strong links with the rest of the biotherapeutic research community.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

CPI Biologics currently have a number of ongoing projects that are relevant, these include:

  • Manufacturing methods for a nanoparticle drug delivery system
  • In process formulation of biotherapeutics
  • Engineering CHO cells for improved process performance
  • Improved and streamlined biotherapeutic development pathways

There are numerous other projects currently in the planning stages.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?

The biotherapeutic industry will face many varied challenges in the next few years, particularly it will need to adapt to the needs of stratified medicine and adopt more efficient and cost effective ways of selecting, developing and manufacturing therapeutic products. There is likely to be an increase in the diversity of therapeutic products (new protein formats, viral vectors for gene therapy, cell therapy) and these will all challenge our current manufacturing operations.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?

We now have a wide range of technologies available that together have the potential to revolutionise the development and manufacture of biopharmaceuticals (genomics, synthetic biology, microfluidics, 3D printing, cell free expression), some of these are beyond the traditional remit of biotechnologists. Networks such as CBMNet can help by developing a cross disciplinary approach to solving biological problems and ensuring that biotechnologists have access to and an ongoing dialogue with experts from other fields.

You can contact Richard by emailing him at

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Ian Hodgson, Head of Molecular Biology, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies


Ian Hodgson, Head of Molecular Biology, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies

What is your background and current job role?

I did a degree in Biochemistry, a PhD in Molecular Biology, and after the obligatory post-doc, started work for ICI (as it was) then as a Molecular Biologist in 1989. I’ve now worked for five different companies without moving buildings, after moving to Billingham in 1992 which was developing a business in what would be now called white biotechnology (speciality enzymes, biodegradable polymers etc).

With changes in strategy and company name/ ownership (Zeneca, Avecia, Merck, Fujifilm) the business at Billingham moved from a focus on industrial biotechnology into biotherapeutic proteins and has operated as a contract development and manufacturing organisation for ca 15 years now. My current area of responsibility is Head Of Molecular Biology, which covers a range of activities in both Microbial and Mammalian Expression Systems.

What industrial biotechnology and bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

We have a number of external projects running but one project I am directly involved with is a collaboration with the University of Edinburgh to investigate using E.coli turgor pressure regulation to optimise product excretion. E coli remains a very versatile expression system used by many of our clients for producing their biotherapeutics proteins. The aim of this project is have product excreted into the growth media while preventing unwanted cytoplasmic leakage. This should provide higher quality material for the start of downstream purification with reduction in host cell proteins and other cell derived species. This collaboration initiated as a CBMNet proof of concept study which then progressed to a collaborative project involving funding from IBioIC.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years

The biggest challenge will be to characterise enough about the impact of turgor pressure on product excretion to be able to know how generally it can be applied and key variables . Additionally at the moment all studies planned at present are laboratory scale so it will be very exciting to see if the data from the project will lead to the need to scale up to full manufacturing fermentation scale at 5000L and above.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research.

We have collaborations with other CBMNet members including Louise Horsfall also at University of Edinburgh and with Graham Stafford at The University of Sheffield.  We are always looking out for new ideas and approaches which would enable better and more informed development and manufacturing approaches to Biotherapeutics to be achieved. Implementation of these will have potential overall benefits to ourselves and society generally through making new medicines available more quickly and more broadly.

You can contact John by emailing him at

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Gordon James, Science Leader, Unilever

IMG_0056          unilever

Gordon James, Science Leader at Unilever

What is your background and current job role?

I originate from Glasgow and was educated at University of Glasgow, graduating with a BSc in Biochemistry in 1987, and a PhD in Protein Biochemistry in 1991. I then did a postdoctoral fellowship at University of Strathclyde, also in Glasgow, in the area of environmental and waste biotechnology, and it was during this time that I began practicing my favoured discipline of microbial biochemistry. I joined Unilever R&D in 1993, and in all the time since, my main focus has been applying these microbial biochemistry skills to unravel the metabolic origins of body odours, mainly axillary (underarm) odour. More recently, I have done similar work in the area of scalp health, focussing on the contribution of Malassezia fungi to dandruff. My current role is to provide scientific leadership in the area of microbiology and antimicrobials development on behalf of Deodorants and the other Unilever Personal Care categories.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

The most relevant IBBE-related project that I personally am involved in is a collaboration with University of York to identify, clone, express and characterise the bacterial transporters involved in axillary malodour production, focussing currently on malodour precursor uptake systems.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?

The biggest challenge will be to translate new biological understanding into commercial development opportunities. We have had great success thus far in characterising the transport protein responsible for thiol-precursor uptake in a key axillary bacterium. This is great science, but the ultimate goal for Unilever is to develop a deodorant that measurably reduces underarm odour by inhibiting bacterial uptake of thiol-precursors.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?

We have an ongoing collaboration with Gavin Thomas, a key CBMNet member of course, and the continuation of this relationship will be key to meeting the above challenge. Additionally, however, we are putting in place collaborations with at least two additional CBMNet members who can add value to the current project in ways that myself & Gavin cannot, for example, by deriving a crystal structure of the thiol-precursor transporter (Simon Newstead, University of Oxford) and designing peptide and peptide-analogue ligands (Beining Chen, University of Sheffield).

 You can contact Gordon by emailing him at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *