A synthetic biology and green chemistry approach to the breakdown of chemical warfare agents

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


The field of synthetic biology has emerged as an elegant approach to diminishing our society's reliance on fossil fuels. However, in addition to utilising new sustainable materials to fuel biological processes, engineered bacteria can also be used to remediate chemical waste generated from existing industrial activities. This circular economy approach uses waste as a feedstock, rather than an end-product, for the modern bio-economy.

Chemical warfare agents are a particularly challenging category of 'waste' as they are highly toxic, non-natural and man-made; Nature has not evolved mechanisms to utilise them to support cellular function.

To overcome these limitations, this multidisciplinary project will combine evolution techniques with biocompatible chemistry to create new pathways in bacteria to utilise sulfur- and phosphorus-containing chemicals as a feedstock, breaking them down to non-hazardous products. It will also screen >200 newly-isolated microorganisms from extreme habitats around the world, such as deep-sea vents and acid lakes, for new enzymes to be used as new tools in synthetic biology.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/T517884/1 30/09/2020 29/09/2025
2607179 Studentship EP/T517884/1 30/09/2021 30/03/2025 Louis Marlow