Our supervisors have been selected not only for their academic merits but also for their wide experience in instructing PhD students and postdocs. Our principal investigators have supervised over 150 PhD students, most of whom have since continued on a successful career in academia or the private sector.
Simon J. Charnock
Prof. Charnock co-founded the enzyme discovery company Prozomix in 2008 as Managing Director. Now at the end of its 14th year of operation, he has grown this innovative SME to become a highly collaborative, research intensive, profitable SME, now in the scale-up phase of expansion, and a reputable global leader in the commercialisation of maximum diversity biocatalysts mined via proprietary high-throughput metagenomic techniques. Prozomix has a strong history of successfully delivering collaborative research projects within UK and EU funding schemes, with a total of 26 projects since 2008. Over the years Prof. Charnock’s research group has developed numerous advanced methods to both increase the pace of development, and the diversity presented, by the ever-expanding Prozomix Biocatalysis Enzyme Toolkit. Such methods are continually optimised by his group, or new approaches designed/established, and focus on novel in silico whole protein family mining tools, high-throughput cloning, metagenomic enrichment and recombinant expression.
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and Center for Molecular Biology “Severo Ochoa”
Prof. Aurelio Hidalgo has been leading an independent research group at UAM (Center for Molecular Biology “Severo Ochoa”, Madrid, Spain) since 2019. His research focuses on the exploration of the natural and artificial genetic diversity to find enzymes and small molecules for the circular bioeconomy. The HT Disocvery lab develops biological selection and screening methods using functional metagenomics in order to find biocatalysts with desired activity and subsequently improve them, using protein engineering strategies, such as directed evolution or (semi)rational design. Some of these methods involve droplet-based ultrahigh-throughput screening with a particular focus on discovering or improving thermostable enzymes or uncovering biosynthetic pathways to produce and modify valuable molecules for the fine chemistry and pharmaceutical industries. The long-term goals of this work is to create personalized, yet universal assay compartments for ultrahigh-throughput screening, to use the detailed molecular understanding of what constitutes an active and stable enzyme to ultimately create bespoke biocatalysts.
Full Professor of (Bio)Organic Chemistry
Technische Universität Darmstadt
Prof. Wolf-Dieter Fessner is a Full Professor of (Bio)Organic Chemistry at the Department of Chemistry, Technical University Darmstadt since 1998. Backed by a 35 years’ experience, the group’s research focuses on the discovery, engineering and application of enzymes from various classes for organic synthesis, with a special focus on asymmetric carboligation. The central motivation is the development of efficient (chemo)enzymatic methods for the preparation of chiral, biologically active compounds. This includes the development of new biocatalytic syntheses of bioactive compounds using enzyme catalysis as the only source of chirality. In particular, the discovery of novel, synthetically useful enzymes from natural resources and broadening their application scope by semi-rational protein engineering. More recently, thermostable transketolase and aldolases have been optimized for improved substrate tolerance, stereoselectivity, and stability, which furnished new opportunities for the sustainable synthesis of important chiral building blocks.
Zvjezdana Findrik Blažević
Professor of Chemical Engineering
University of Zagreb, Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Technology
Prof. Zvjezdana Findrik Blažević is a full professor at the Department of Reaction Engineering and Catalysis at the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Technology, in the University of Zagreb, (Croatia). Her research focuses on studying biotransformations catalysed by purified enzymes or enzymes within whole microbial cells. In her work she applies the chemical engineering methodology in the development and optimisation of single and multi-enzymatic reactions. This implies the use of mathematical kinetic models, as well as statistic and stochastic methods for process optimisation, i.e., finding the optimum reaction conditions and the best reactor mode, to obtain the maximum process output. The purpose of her work is not only to understand the complexity of biotransformations, but also to bring them one step closer to industrial application, by showing their potential in relevant numbers.
Lecturer in Biocatalysis and Biocatalyst Engineering
University College London
Jack Jeffries studied Biochemistry at University College London and carried out his PhD on Functional Metagenomics for industrial enzyme discovery at UCL. After completing his PhD he helped spin out the biotech start-up Axitan as CSO, developing expression platforms in microalgae, for the production of biotherapeutics. Following his time in the private sector he returned to academia with a post-doctoral role developing N-glucuronidation pathways in yeast, after which he was hired as a Lecturer in Biocatalysis and Biocatalytic engineering at the Biochemical Engineering department at UCL. His research covers the areas of biocatalysis, expression system design, cell engineering, and synthetic biology. He uses enzymes mined from (meta) genomes for biocatalysis, with applications in fine chemical production, waste stream amelioration and bio valorisation. His group is developing a high throughput metagenomics pipeline utilising automation and cell free systems to fully exploit the diversity of enzymes available from metagenomic sources.
University Professor (W3) for Molecular Enzymology
Göttingen Centre for Molecular Biosciences, Georg-August University Göttingen
Prof. Kai Tittmann has been leading the research group “Molecular enzymology” at the Göttingen Center of Molecular Biosciences at Göttingen University (Germany) since 2008. He is also a fellow of the Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry Göttingen, Germany since 2017. His research focuses on the elucidation of the molecular reaction mechanisms of enzymes as nature’s catalysts by combining protein X-ray crystallography, steady-state and transient kinetic methods, NMR spectroscopy and theoretical studies. Apart from studying fundamental aspects of enzyme catalysis and regulation, his group is also active in protein and drug design as well as biocatalysis.
Professor of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry
University of Freiburg
Michael Müller studied chemistry at the University of Bonn. After receiving the Diplom degree in 1991, he began his PhD at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich under the guidance of Professor Wolfgang Steglich, finishing in 1995. Following a one-year research exchange at the University of Washington working on the biosynthesis of antibiotics, he became the Group Leader of Bioorganic Chemistry at the Forschungszentrum Jülich. Prof. Müller qualified as a University Lecturer for Organic and Bioorganic Chemistry in 2002 and was appointed the Professorship for Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universtät Freiburg in 2004. His research interests include chemoenzymatic synthesis, natural products, asymmetric synthesis as well as sustainability.
University Clermont Auvergne, Institute of Chemistry of Clermont-Ferrand
Dr Laurence Hecquet is Full Professor since 2000 and develops her research activities at the Institute of chemistry of Clermont-Ferrand (ICCF, UMR 6296), University Clermont Auvergne (UCA), France. Her research focuses on the enzymatic synthesis of chiral compounds particularly by stereoselective carboligation catalysed by transketolase (TK), a thiamine diphosphate (ThDP) dependent enzyme. Her group has recently discovered and engineered by directed evolution a novel thermostable TK from Geobacillus stearothermophilus. The best TK variants efficiently improved wild type TK activity toward pyruvate and higher aliphatic homologues as nucleophiles and toward a large range of polyhydroxylated or aliphatic aldehydes as electophiles. The biocatalytic applications led to various chiral hydroxyketones with high stereocontrol. The long-term goals of her works are to broaden the substrate spectra of TK and of other ThDP enzymes and to optimize the biocatalytic processes in developing multienzymatic cascade reactions for obtaining new chiral compounds of biological interests.
Johnson Matthey Plc.
Carmen Aranda is Biochemist in the Biotechnology group in Johnson Matthey (Cambridge, UK) since 2020. Her expertise is enzyme engineering, high-throughput screening and characterisation, and identification of novel biocatalysts and for synthesis of fine chemicals. She obtained her PhD from University of Seville (Spain) in 2019, where she developed novel biocatalytic routes towards industrially relevant compounds catalysed by fungal peroxygenases, as part of the EU funded projects ‘Indox’ and ‘EnzOx2’. Since then, she has expanded her knowledge to other classes of enzymes to perform ketone, aldehyde and double bond reductions or reductive aminations.
Senior Principal Scientist, White Biotechnology Research – Biocatalysis
Michael Breuer studied biology at the University of Bonn, and then moved to join the group of H.G. Floss at the University of Washington, Seattle. Following his PhD thesis on the biosynthesis of ansamacrolides in actinomyces (University of Bonn) he joined BASF central research in 1996. Currently he is working a senior principal scientist in White Biotechnology research. In this team he is engaged in the identification, characterization, and optimization of enzymes intended for the implementation in technical processes. These are biocatalytic syntheses of various chemicals ranging from optically active intermediates for agro- and pharma- products to aroma chemicals.
Gerrit J. Poelarends
Professor of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology
Groningen Research Institute of Pharmacy, University of Groningen
Gerrit J. Poelarends has been leading an independent research group at the department of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Biology, University of Groningen, The Netherlands since 2006, with promotion to Full Professor in 2017. He is an internationally recognised leader in the enzyme engineering and biocatalysis fields and has been at the forefront of the development of enzymes for new-to-nature reactions during the past decade. This has spanned from the discovery and exploitation of promiscuous enzyme activities to the creation of new biocatalysts for carbon-carbon and carbon-nitrogen bond-forming reactions, as well as the use of laboratory evolution strategies to improve the properties of natural and non-natural enzymes. His distinctive contributions to the field of enzyme engineering have been acknowledged with prestigious national and international grants and have resulted in many invited lectures at international conferences. He has been elected and entrusted by his international peers to fulfil the role of chair of diverse scientific societies and conferences, such as the Biotrans 2019 Symposium, the Amine Biocatalysis 5.0 Conference 2022 and the Gordon Research Conference on Biocatalysis 2022.