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Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology

Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology is a research theme within the Centre for Health and Life Sciences. 

Focus of our research

Our research in the area of Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology focuses on the exploitation of biological processes for multiple aspects of societal impact, ranging from well-being and medicine to bioremediation and environmental safety.

Our researchers are using living organisms, and their derivatives, to create novel products and processes for fundamental and applied research. Microbiology, genetic engineering, tissue, and cell cultures are all used to develop domestic and industrial applications through innovation that drives radical change in the capabilities of a user or culture.

The theme comprises three groups: the Bioremediation Research Group (led by Professor Sebastien Farnaud), the Formulation and Delivery Group (led by Professor Derek Renshaw) and the Biomanufacturing Research Group (led by Dr Phil Gould). 

Enabling technologies are characterised by rapid development of subsequent derivative technologies, often in diverse fields. As part of the 'Bioremediation Research Group’s' bio-innovative activities, we are developing methods in Bioleaching technology for the recycling of precious metals, particularly from e-waste. This research is looking at applications to tackle environmental issues and support the United Nations' Sustainable Development Agenda.

Our 'Formulation and Delivery Group' is developing micro- and nano- encapsulation systems that provide stability, integrity and targeting for functional molecules in the area of human nutrition and drug delivery.

The 'Biomanufacturing Research Group' translates fundamental research outputs into functional solutions that are being utilised in industry to prevent infection and disease.

Research groups

We have three main research groups:

Bioremediation Group

Bioremediation is the branch of biotechnology that uses living organisms, mainly microorganisms such as bacteria, for the removal and utilisation of contaminants, pollutants, and toxins from soil, water, and other environments.

Bioremediation lies at the core of circular economy. It maximises the sustainable use and value of resources, eliminating - but also using - waste to benefit both the environment and the economy.

Bioremediation draws its inspiration from the biological cycle, offering an alternative to the predominant current approach whereby resources are used for one purpose, and then discarded.

One of the aims of the Bioremediation group is electronic waste (e-waste). Recently, electronic waste has been considered as the major secondary source of critical metals. As such, the recycling of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) should prevent the exhaustion of natural resources, while considering the reduction of the leakage of toxic materials into the environment.

Our application of Bioleaching to WEEE recycling offers a reduction of environmental and human health impacts, increases the use of reusable and refurbished equipment, and reduces energy use while conserving limited resources. In commitment to supporting the UK in moving towards a more circular economy, the group is working with the
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs' (DEFRA) e-Sustainability Alliance, which seeks to promote, collect, share and implement best practice aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and DEFRA's 25 Year Environment Plan.

Formulation and Delivery Group

An active molecule is only efficient if it reaches its target.

As macromolecular composition provides the structural complexity and specificity, biopharmaceutical drugs, including antibodies, peptides and recombinant proteins face the challenges of permeation and degradation for efficient targeted delivery.

Our group is applying and developing innovations in formulation and delivery strategies that have facilitated delivery of active compounds. These advances include the use of nano-and micro-particles encapsulation with the combination of liposomes and chitosan-coated structures for increase permeability and stability, but also the addition of specific tags for active targeted delivery.

Biomanufacturing Group

The development of novel approaches to produce and manufacture vaccines or therapeutic treatments is vital to combat the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

Our Biomanufacturing group develops antimicrobial and antiviral compositions into materials that can be used for a wide variety of applications and devises. This provides a close association with industrial partners across all these projects.

One particular area we focus on is the presence of biological contaminant generated in viral vaccine manufacturing. We have identified such contaminant as having a dramatic effect on vaccine production, leading to reduced overall yields. We have developed targeted approaches that able us to manage and control the appearance of contaminant, therefore leading to increases in yield and purity of the final product. The inhibitory properties of this same biological approach can also be harnessed as a therapeutic when targeted correctly.

As part of our research in this area, Dr Phillip Gould and his team at spin-out company OVO Biomanufacturing have secured £100,000 of funding to develop digital solutions to improve the manufacturing efficiency for viral vaccines and gene therapies.

Using a combination of bioinformatical and laboratory experimental studies, we bring together a pipeline to fully characterise and exploit our findings.

Key researchers

Dr Sebastien Farnaud

Theme Lead

As part of Sebastien's research activities in Bioremediation, he created the Bioleaching Research Group, which is targeting processes that uses microorganisms to recover metals from waste. Over the last 20 years, Sebastien has developed his academic and research experience in several academic institutions, including Imperial College and Kings College London, but also in the third sector as Science Director in a medical research charity. His research expertise also includes the biomedical aspects of iron metabolism and the development of antimicrobial peptides.

Project spotlight

Project Name Project Information

Innovate UK funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project with SE Recycling.

The project will explore the feasibility of using bioleaching to recover metals from electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

Innovate UK funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project with Advanced Alloy Services (AAS) Limited.

The project will enable the development of a pilot bio-leaching plant to process bioleaching of critical metals back into the supply chain.
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