Metabolic engineering of yeast for the production of methyl methacrylate and its precursors

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


This project is sponsored by Mitsubishi Chemical and focusses on the development of sustainable processes for manufacturing methyl methacrylate (MMA). Mitsubishi Chemical are world leaders in the manufacture of MMA; the building block of poly-methyl methacrylate and a key ingredient of paints, surface coatings, automotive components and synthetic bone/joint replacements.

Global demand for MMA is estimated at ~4 million tonnes per year. Mitsubishi Chemical's 'KAITEKI' vision demands the rapid realisation of sustainable manufacturing practices to resolve environmental issues that affect people, society and our planet. To this end, Mitsubishi Chemical have an active biotechnology programme aimed at developing sustainable processes for manufacturing MMA.

This PhD project will explore the feasibility of producing key intermediate chemicals via yeast-based fermentation, which can subsequently be converted to MMA using established technologies. The successful candidate will be based at The University of Edinburgh and develop expertise in advanced synthetic biology and metabolic engineering. The student will also undertake a placement (approximately 3 months) at local biotechnology company Ingenza (, to carry out microbial fermentation work in state-of-the art commercial laboratories.

Key skills which will be developed in this project include bioinformatics approaches to metabolic pathway design, DNA assembly, engineering of pathways in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, small and pilot scale fermentation processes, and analytical methods. The student will also gain experience in working with the biotechnology industry to develop new processes with strong commercial potential. This project is highly suitable for a student interested in a career in synthetic biology and industrial biotechnology, either in academia or in industry.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/T517884/1 30/09/2020 29/09/2025
2607199 Studentship EP/T517884/1 30/09/2021 30/03/2025 Alexandru Popov