(IBB) Synthetic biology-enabled new generation biosensors for global health and environment challenges

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Biological Sciences


The traditional laboratory-based analytical assays for bacterial pathogens and environmental toxins are expensive, time consuming and normally require specialised personnel and complex equipment. This restricts their use in resource limited areas and developing countries where lack sufficient skilled personnel and healthcare facilities to rapidly identify the risks. There is therefore an urgent need to provide simple cost effective, fast on-site sensing solutions for pathogens (e.g. diarrhea related Shigella flexneri) and toxins (e.g. arsenic or pesticides in contaminated drinking water) associated with fatal bacterial infections and contaminated water or land resources.

This project aims to use innovative synthetic biology approaches to develop new generation biosensors to address these daunting global health and environmental challenges. In particular, we will develop robust, fast, inexpensive and portable cell-free/paper-based biosensors that are readily deployable in the field with minimal human intervention and/or resources. The project is based on our prior ample experience and expertise in engineering synthetic cell-based biosensors for environmental toxins and pathogens with programmable sensitivity and selectivity. Advanced signal processing and amplifying gene networks may be used within these sensor circuits to boost the sensor sensitivity to meet their real world detection requirement. Novel encapsulation and packaging methods will also be developed to significantly increase the robustness, stability and shelf life of the resulting sensors. The technology and approaches developed will find diverse applications in environmental, biotechnological and medical settings.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M010996/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
2103867 Studentship BB/M010996/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2022 Margaret Hicks