Chemical Engineering PhD (Bioprocessing specialism)

Bioprocessing is concerned with development of new methods for production of bioactive molecules and their delivery to the human body, and incorporates research groups in biochemical engineering, cell and tissue engineering, biological products recovery, waste processing and environmental bioremediation. 

Taken together, this is one of the largest biochemical engineering activities in the UK, and is housed in a purpose-built Biochemical Engineering building.

Bioprocessing is concerned with development of new methods for production of bioactive molecules and their delivery to the human body, and incorporates research groups in biochemical engineering, cell and tissue engineering, biological products recovery, waste processing and environmental bioremediation. Taken together, this is one of the largest biochemical engineering activities in the UK, and is housed in a purpose-built Biochemical Engineering building. 

Our research strengths are animal cell culture, bioselective separations and formulation of bioactive dosage forms, micromanipulation of single cells, flow cytometry and microbial physiology. These strengths are harnessed to solve post-genomic and proteomic issues of manufacture, measurement and modification of new products characterised by extreme molecular complexity and purity specifications. These products are commonly macromolecular proteins, and are likely to be nanoparticulate in nature, including virus, virus-like and nucleic acid formulations.

Initial enquiries about the research opportunities available in bioprocessing should be made to Dr Neil Rowson, who will put you in touch with the appropriate member of staff.

Research themes

Our research is structured into four industry themes:

  • Nanoparticulate, cell and tissue engineering
  • Image analysis and micromechanical techniques
  • Waste processing and bioremediation

Nanoparticulate, cell and tissue engineering is concerned with identification of strategies for the manufacture of nanoparticulate bioproducts, including viral gene therapy vectors, plasmids and supramolecular assemblies, and production of efficient and reproducible processes for gene therapy products.

Current work includes:

  • Development of novel bioseparation routes
  • Intensification of enzyme production by direct product separation from batch fermentations
  • Development of animal cell culture processes for large-scale production of pharmaceuticals, particularly intensive systems with cell and product retention
  • Control of cell proliferation and cell death (apoptosis)
  • Development of flow cytometric methods for selection of high producers; monitoring performance and productivity of industrial-scale processes
  • Tissue engineering of bone and cartilage tissue, and development of bio-artificial liver systems
  • Improvement of packaging cell lines and production systems of viral vectors for gene therapy
  • Brewing and environmental processing
  • Scale-up and -down of bioprocesses using flow cytometry as a physiological probe

Image analysis and micromechanical techniques for characterising the behaviour of single cells have been pioneered here and are applied to key bioprocess engineering problems, such as:

  • Determination of the effect of biomass and mycelial morphology on fermentation broth rheology
  • Damage to mycelia in penicillin fermentation and development of structured models for control of penicillin fermentations
  • Mechanical properties of cell walls in bioproducts
  • Shear effects in aggregate formation and break-up, using both model and bacterial aggregates
  • Cell-surface adhesion, biofouling and surface cleaning
  • Determination of the mechanical properties of a wide range of microparticles, such as skin cells for human skin care applications,and vitamin granules and microspheres for food and pharmaceutical applications
  • Probiotic formulations for preservation and targeted delivery
  • Micro-encapsulation for pressure-sensitive materials, artificial organs, cell engineering and drug delivery
  • Nanomanipulation under the Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (ESEM)

Waste processing and bioremediation is concerned with the development of clean-up technologies at the theoretical and practical level. Many projects are collaborative with the School of Biosciences (on wastewater treatment and metals recovery) and the Centre for Environmental Research and Training (CERT).

Topics include:

  • A patented process for precious metal recovery from catalysts
  • Adsorption of reactive dyes for wastewater treatment
  • Wastewater treatment by supercritical water oxidation
  • Bioremediation of food and agricultural wastes
  • Bioreactors for dairy water treatment
  • Control of thermophilic aerobic waste treatments
  • Oxidation and photocatalytic techniques for aqueous media