Synthetic Biology

Prof. Paul Freemont co-founded the UK’s first academic research centre for synthetic biology at Imperial College London (CSynBI) and co-directs the first R&D centre for synthetic biology SynbiCITE. Paul’s synthetic biology research interests include the development of cell-free biotechnologies and global health bioreporters. 

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Cell-free biotechnologies

For the rapid detection of disease markers, cell-free biotechnologies are demonstrating great potential as inexpensive and rapid point-of-care diagnostics. The Freemont group has been pioneering the UK in cell-free synthetic biology, which includes the development of a range of cell-free extracts developed for the rapid and scalable synthesis of recombinant proteins (e.g. antibodies, enzymes) within a test-tube. This includes a range of bacterial systems such as Escherichia coli (Wen et al, 2017; Kelwick and Ricci et al, 2018), Streptomyces (Moore et al, 2017), Bacillus subtilis (Kelwick and Webb et al, 2016) and mammalian cell-free systems (Kopniczky et al, 2015). 


global health bioreporters

A key focus of the Freemont group is the development of whole-cell and cell-free bioreporters for medical applications. A leading development is a robust and powerful protease bioreporter for the potential field detection of the schistosomiasis-causing Schistosoma parasite that is endemic in sub-Saharan African states (Webb et al, 2016). In addition, for the rapid detection of antimicrobial resistant pathogens, such as chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in patients suffering from cystic fibrosis, a chemical fingerprint detection method was recently developed (Wen et al, 2017). Many of these projects have also stemmed from a range of highly successful ICL iGEM teams.

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Pathway Engineering

Synthetic biology aims to provide green solutions to replacing traditional petroleum or arable farming based production methods. Here, we aim to tailor the genetic design of biology to orchestrate the chemistry of life. As part of the EPSRC-sponsored Flowers Consortium and Frontiers Engineering awards, and in collaboration with industrial partners Shell, GlaxoSmithKline and Lonza, our lab is focused on developing renewable and scalable technology for the production of high-value fine chemicals, antimicrobials, therapeutic agents and environmentally friendly biopolymers (Kelwick and Kopniczky et al, 2015; Kelwick and Ricci et al, 2018). To accelerate the research in rapidly prototyping pathway designs, we developed combinatorial DNA assembly protocol for large biosynthetic pathways (Moore et al, 2016). We also integrate a high-throughput automation and robotics platform to screen for optimised pathway designs in partnership with SynBiCITE and London DNA Foundry teams.