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Department of Chemical Engineering

A researcher and his student operating biochemical engineering equipment

Biochemical and bioprocess engineering

Our biochemical and bioprocess engineering researchers are focused on the sustainable biological production of a wide range of added-value products, from biofuels and chemicals to biopharmaceuticals, using novel experimental and computational methodologies.

Our research combines chemical and process systems engineering, industrial biotechnology, molecular and systems biology and bioinformatics into novel cross-disciplinary approaches, with the aim of designing new bioprocesses and innovative products from renewable sources. We take a holistic view on the process-product chain leading to sustainable production with increased economic viability, pollution prevention and conservation of resources.

We work with a wide range of biomass sources, including seeds and grains, agricultural and food waste, lignocellulosics, microalgae and biorefinery by-products. We target the production of a spectrum of biofuels (such as biodiesel, bioethanol, biobutanol and microbial oil) and added-value chemicals and products (succinic acid, bioplastics, biosurfactants, biophenols, nutraceuticals) through the efficient use of fermentation and novel extraction processes. To achieve this we work with nature to maximise and optimise existing biochemical pathways that can be used in manufacturing, and capitalise on a wealth of developments in three fields of study related to cell developments: genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics. Consequently, we apply new techniques to a large number of microorganisms ranging from bacteria, yeasts and fungi to algae and mammalian cells, where we take an integrated approach through the combination of experimental and computational tools to optimise both production rates and productivities.

Biopharmaceutical production

We also target the production of biopharmaceuticals, which are new medicines that can be made biologically, ie by directing cells using the spectrum of natural catalytic reactions, as they are too complex to be synthesised using simple chemistry. Technology now allows for the production of many new medicines (eg protein antibodies) that can be used to detect and treat a wide range of debilitating disease conditions. Detection of cancer cells, delivery of toxic materials to selectively kill cancer cells and alleviation of diseases associated with inappropriate immune responses (eg rheumatoid arthritis) are all made possible by biopharmaceuticals.


  • We develop scalable bioprocesses, which we take all the way from the laboratory to the pilot scale.
  • We explore the role of neoteric solvents for developing sustainable biorefinery processes through a multi-scale approach that enables screening, selecting and designing novel task-specific solvents for target applications.
  • We develop biological tools to produce novel effective medicines that can be used to treat a range of diseases.

For optimal effectiveness, many therapeutic proteins require post-translational modifications, which can only be performed fully by mammalian cells. Thus, much attention has been focused by academic and industrial groups towards optimisation of mammalian cell systems (bioprocessing) as hosts for high-level expression of commercially valuable recombinant proteins (biopharmaceuticals). It is clear that the pipeline of biopharmaceuticals contains a number of potential 'blockbuster' products. However, the biochemistry and physiology of host cell systems play profound roles in the level of expression and fidelity of the recombinant protein and can determine the market effectiveness for potential biopharmaceuticals.

The group has vast expertise of all these key areas using innovative bioreactor designs, novel strains, cell lines and solvents and new separation processes and their integration into complete technologies with commercial potential. We are well placed to translate this research knowledge towards a wide range of industrial sectors including bioenergy, chemicals and pharmaceuticals to have a positive impact on the society, the environment and the economy.