Using fatberg waste as a feedstock to produce fragrance compounds in engineered E. coli

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


The 'upcycling' of low-value material is a major focus of current research in biotechnology and has the potential to significantly reduce our society's reliance on fossil fuels by creating a circular economy.

An emerging new approach to achieving this goal is the combined use of chemical catalysts and engineered microorganisms. This enables the use of 'non-natural' waste as a feedstock for biological processes, and dramatically expands the range of industrial compounds that can be produced from engineered cellular systems via fermentation. This also avoids the need to evolve new enzymes and strains capable of performing new-to-nature reactions; existing green chemical methods can instead be directly applied in vivo and interfaced with cellular metabolism.

By merging synthetic biology and synthetic chemistry, this project will use fatberg waste from domestic sewers as a feedstock to produce flavour, fragrance and cosmetic compounds in engineered E. coli. Modern synthetic biology techniques will be used to construct new biosynthetic pathways ( and these will be interfaced with green chemical catalysts in vivo. Initial work will focus on the use of model feedstock mixtures before using real industry samples isolated from UK sewers.

Overall, this project offers a unique opportunity to lead the development of a novel bioprocess to generate high value compounds from low value sewer waste to fuel the circular bioeconomy in the UK.

This highly multidisciplinary project will be based in the Wallace Lab at the University of Edinburgh (, a friendly and inclusive research team based at the Institute of Quantitative Biology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology (IQB3) in the School of Biological Sciences and the Centre for Synthetic and Systems Biology (SynthSys, The lab offers a unique training environment for doctoral students to gain experience in a broad range of synthetic biology and synthetic chemistry techniques - including metabolic pathway design, DNA assembly, microbiology and protein biochemistry; in addition to organic synthesis, chemical biology and the analysis of microbial metabolites by HPLC, GC, NMR and LC-MS.

This is a 4 year fully-funded IBioIC/BBSRC studentship in collaboration with Argent Energy and will involve a 3-/6-month industrial placement in addition to regular interactions with industry research scientists throughout the project. The student will join a cohort of students enrolled on the IBioIC CTP ( and will benefit from the wide range of additional training opportunities this provides.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/W510270/1 30/09/2021 29/09/2025
2589209 Studentship BB/W510270/1 31/08/2021 30/08/2025 Cordelia Kao