Centre for Enzyme Innovation

Man researching plastic at computer at desk in lab coat

At the Centre for Enzyme Innovation, we're researching solutions to some of the most pressing global environmental problems. We're learning from the natural world – working to unlock natural chemical resources to investigate aspects of biofuel production and explore new plastic recycling methods.

Our research

Our research is divided into 3 phases:

  • Discover – This is when we use bioprospecting and genomic approaches to discover new enzymes with unique properties.
  • Engineer – In this phase, we develop a detailed understanding of enzyme structures, functional activity and molecular control pathways. This provides a robust basis for rational design for optimal activity.
  • Deployment – During this phase, we use synthetic biology and biodesign to engineer novel biological functions and systems for exploitation and production of new industrially relevant enzymes.
Watch Professor John McGeehan present his plastic-eating enzyme research

Professor John McGeehan presented his research into PETase, an enzyme found to break down plastics, at EmTech Hong Kong. Watch the video to discover more about this research. 

Funding and collaboration

Researchers from the Centre for Enzyme Innovation receive funding from external sources, including the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the National Environment Research Council (NERC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Leverhulme Trust and the U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

We collaborate with academics and industry and our pipeline is built on innovation and technological advances. This has resulted in high-profile successes, including lignocellulose degrading enzyme discoveries, and the engineering of the enzyme PETase that can digest some of the world's most commonly polluting plastics.

Other recent projects include:

  • A patented high-throughput platform technology to support discovery, optimisation and biodesign of the fundamental components of enzyme expression systems for synthetic biology applications
  • Exploring the molecular basis of bacterial colonisation on marine microplastic surfaces
  • Discovering biomolecules from algae for sustainable bioemulsifiers and biosurfactants production
  • Molecular mechanisms of degrading highly structured substrates by multi-domain, flexible enzymes

Members

Our researchers have expertise in areas such as enzyme engineering, enzymes for biofuels and chemicals, lignocellulose deconstruction, synthetic biology, post-transcriptional gene expression, bacterial enzymes, microbial molecular biology and molecular pathways.

Associate Members

Partners

  • US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
  • Diamond Light Source
  • GlaxoSmithKline

Fully-funded PhD projects

If you want to make your own contribution to the important work we're doing, our fully-funded PhD projects are the perfect opportunity. Explore our projects, find out more about the research ahead, and start your application today.

PhD Projects

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD studentship to commence in October 2019

Supervisors: Prof. John McGeehan, Dr Andy Pickford and Dr Gregg Beckham

This fully-funded studentship is supported as part of an exciting joint venture between the University of Portsmouth and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and benefits from the recent award of substantial international funding. There will be the opportunity to undertake a portion of research training at NREL.

This project brings together expertise within the Centre for Enzyme Innovation with the common goal of addressing one of our most imminent global challenges for the bioeconomy, the generation of sustainable fuels, chemicals and materials. We aim to understand and improve biological catalysis for the deconstruction of lignin biomass and its conversion to high-value products. It draws on parallel research projects currently running in our laboratories on the depolymerisation of natural polymers such as cellulose and synthetic polymers such a plastics.

View this project.

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD studentship to commence in October 2019

Supervisors: Dr Pattanathu Rahman, Dr Claudio Angione (Teesside University), and Dr Sam Robson

Lignin-derived aromatic carbon sources can be metabolised by P. putida using oxidative catabolic pathways. One of these pathways, namely the β-ketoadipate pathway, has been recently integrated into the P. putida metabolic network. Due to the large size of the metabolic network, and the vast array of possible growth medium composition, the metabolic capabilities of P. putida growth on lignin-derived growth media, and their potential for rhamnolipids biosynthesis can be fully investigated only with multi-omics modelling, statistical, metabolic and biosynthetic engineering approaches. This project will use mathematical techniques and model annotation to constrain the allowable flux rate for the enzymes catalyzing each step in the genome-scale metabolic network, and design and apply machine learning and multi-level optimisation algorithms to predict the conditions that are optimally using lignin-derived carbon sources and show potential for optimal rhamnolipid biosynthesis.

View this project.

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD studentship to commence in October 2019

Supervisors: Dr Andy Pickford, Prof. John McGeehan and Dr Gregg Beckham

This fully-funded studentship is supported as part of an exciting joint venture between the University of Portsmouth and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and benefits from the recent award of substantial international funding. There will be the opportunity to undertake a portion of research training at NREL.

This project brings together expertise within the Centre for Enzyme Innovation with the common goal of addressing one of our most imminent global challenges, plastic pollution. Everyday plastics such as poly(ethylene terephthalate), or PET, are highly versatile but are accumulating in the environment at a staggering rate as discarded packaging and textiles.

View this project.

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD studentship to commence in October 2019

Supervisors: Prof. Simon Cragg, Dr. Joy Watts, Dr Sam Robson and Prof Dan Distel (Ocean Genome Legacy and Northeastern University USA)

This fully-funded studentship is supported as part of the University of Portsmouth’s investment to grow its newly developed Centre for Enzyme innovation, which focuses on the discovery, engineering and deployment of enzymes with potential application to the circular economy.

This project will build upon the research at the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (in collaboration with the Universities of York and Cambridge) into how the highly recalcitrant lignocellulose complex is broken down by specialist wood feeders.

View this project.

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD studentship to commence in October 2019

Supervisors: Prof. Anastasia Callaghan, Dr Darren Gowers and Dr Garry Scarlett

This fully-funded studentship is supported as part of the University of Portsmouth’s investment to grow its newly developed Centre for Enzyme innovation. The Centre focuses on the discovery, engineering and deployment of enzymes with potential application to the circular economy. University funding will be made available to offer extensions into a 4th year where this will maximise scientific output and boost research careers. 

This project will utilise our patented high-throughput array platform technology to support discovery, optimisation and biodesign of the molecular switch components of gene expression systems. The regulation of gene expression, particularly within the context of applied enzymatic systems, is of critical importance.

View this project.