Professor Tim Dafforn PhD

Dr Tim Dafforn

School of Biosciences
Professor of Biotechnology
Knowledge Exchange lead for Biosciences

Contact details

418, School of Biosciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Professor Tim Dafforn has established himself as an expert in biophysical spectroscopy with a keen interest in synthetic biology. Professor Dafforn has developed a number of projects from inception through to commercial realization.


BSc (Hons) Biochemistry(Cardiff University)

PhD ProteinEngineering (Bristol University) 



Professor Dafforn's fundamental research interests focus on the application of nano-technology approaches to enhance the exploitation of biomolecules for public good. His research has led to the development of new methods (SMALPs) to extract and purify membrane proteins and the development of novel diagnostics systems. One of the most high profile of these systems has been the development of RTF-EXPAR, the worlds fastest method for detecting pathogen RNA (including SARS-CoV-2).  


Professor Dafforn is also keenly interested in methods to maximise the impact of research. He has worked at the highest levels of UK government as Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy developing policy on science exploitation and entrepreneurship education. He has also founded two businesses to exploit research produced within his laboratory.


Professor Dafforn enjoys teaching, and is keen on the adoption of modern teaching practices. His current teaching activities focus on delivering applied courses that enhance the ability of students to translate their science. 


What are SMALPs, and how do they work?

Over the past 2 billion years life has been evolving to produce the wonderful biological diversity we see today. At the molecular level evolution has produced nano-molecular machines of wonderful complexity. Tim’s research is focused upon studying these wonders, understanding how they assemble and harnessing their function for good. Currently his studies have three streams of research:

  1. Studying and understanding the complex molecular machinery that underlies bacterial cell division.
  2. Developing novel nanoencapsulation methods that allow large scale production of membrane proteins.
  3. Building nano-assemblies that can be used in detection systems

The last two of these projects have provided seven patents that are currently the focus of two commercialisation projects. 

Other activities

While Science and Science Policy are Tim's work passions he believes that it is important to let your mind explore other areas in your leisure. He spends leisure time supporting Leicester Tigers Rugby team and obsessively watching F1. He also competes in long distant car rallies with a variety of 50 year old vehicles.


Recent publications


Wang, X, Slater, A, Lee, SC, Harrison, N, Pollock, NL, Bakker, SE, Navarro, S, Nieswandt, B, Dafforn, TR, García, Á, Watson, SP & Tomlinson, MG 2024, 'Purification and characterisation of the platelet-activating GPVI/FcRγ complex in SMALPs', Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, vol. 754, 109944.

Li, HZ, Pike, ACW, Lotsaris, I, Chi, G, Hansen, JS, Lee, SC, Rödström, KEJ, Bushell, SR, Speedman, D, Evans, A, Wang, D, He, D, Shrestha, L, Nasrallah, C, Burgess-Brown, NA, Vandenberg, RJ, Dafforn, TR, Carpenter, EP & Sauer, DB 2024, 'Structure and function of the SIT1 proline transporter in complex with the COVID-19 receptor ACE2', Nature Communications, vol. 15, no. 1, 5503.

Harrison, N, Richardson, L, Pallini, C, Morano, I, Jinks, E, Cowley, J, Chan, H, Hill, HJ, Tuekprakhon, A, Li, Z, Matas de las Heras, C, Teodosio, A, Lavado, AS, Moring, R, Ashraf, A, Dafforn, TR, Grammatopoulos, DK, Gordon, J, Brady, CA, Young, LS, Barnes, NM, Stamataki, Z & Qureshi, OS 2023, 'A cell-based, SARS-CoV-2 spike protein interaction assay to inform the neutralising capacity of recombinant and patient sera antibodies', Frontiers in Virology, vol. 3, 1163385.

Little, HA, Ali, A, Carter, JG, Hicks, MR, Dafforn, TR & Tucker, JHR 2023, 'A plug-and-play aptamer diagnostic platform based on linear dichroism spectroscopy', Frontiers in Chemistry, vol. 11, 1040873.

Martin, A, Jemmett, P, Howitt, T, Wood, M, Burley, A, Cox, L, Dafforn, T, Welbourn, R, Campana, M, Skoda, MWA, Thompson, J, Hussain, H, Rawle, JL, Carla, F, Nicklin, CL, Arnold, T & Horswell, SL 2023, 'Effect of anionic lipids on mammalian plasma cell membrane properties', Langmuir, vol. 39, no. 7, pp. 2676-2691.

Pollock, NL, Lloyd, J, Montinaro, C, Rai, M & Dafforn, TR 2022, 'Conformational trapping of an ABC transporter in polymer lipid nanoparticles', The Biochemical journal, vol. 479, no. 2, pp. 145-159.

Jemmett, PN, Milan, DC, Nichols, RJ, Howitt, T, Martin, A, Arnold, T, Rawle, JL, Nicklin, CL, Dafforn, TR, Cox, LR & Horswell, SL 2022, 'Influence of the lipid backbone on electrochemical phase behavior', Langmuir, vol. 38, no. 46, pp. 14290-14301.

Grime, R, Logan, R, Nestorow, S, Sridhar, P, Edwards, PC, Tate, CG, Klumperman, B, Dafforn, T, Poyner, DR, Reeves, PJ & Wheatley, M 2021, 'Differences in SMA-like polymer architecture dictate the conformational changes exhibited by the membrane protein rhodopsin encapsulated in lipid nano-particles', Nanoscale, vol. 13, no. 31, pp. 13519-13528.

Vafaei, S, Allabush, F, Tabaei, SR, Male, L, Dafforn, TR, Tucker, JHR & Mendes, PM 2021, 'Förster resonance energy transfer nanoplatform based on recognition-induced fusion/fission of DNA mixed micelles for nucleic acid sensing', ACS Nano, vol. 15, no. 5, pp. 8517-8524.

Carter, JG, Pfukwa, R, Riley, L, Tucker, JHR, Rodger, A, Dafforn, TR & Klumperman, B 2021, 'Linear dichroism activity of chiral poly(p-aryltriazole) foldamers', ACS Omega, vol. 6, no. 48, pp. 33231-33237.

Hawkins, OP, Jahromi, CPT, Gulamhussein, AA, Nestorow, S, Bahra, T, Shelton, C, Owusu-mensah, QK, Mohiddin, N, O'rourke, H, Ajmal, M, Byrnes, K, Khan, M, Nahar, NN, Lim, A, Harris, C, Healy, H, Hasan, SW, Ahmed, A, Evans, L, Vaitsopoulou, A, Akram, A, Williams, C, Binding, J, Thandi, RK, Joby, A, Guest, A, Tariq, MZ, Rasool, F, Cavanagh, L, Kang, S, Asparuhov, B, Jestin, A, Dafforn, TR, Simms, J, Bill, RM, Goddard, AD & Rothnie, AJ 2021, 'Membrane protein extraction and purification using partially-esterified SMA polymers', Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Biomembranes, vol. 1863, no. 12, 183758.

Carter, JG, Iturbe, LO, Duprey, J-LHA, Carter, IR, Southern, CD, Rana, M, Bosworth, A, Beggs, AD, Hicks, MR, Tucker, JHR & Dafforn, TR 2021, 'Sub-5-minute detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA using a Reverse Transcriptase-Free Exponential Amplification Reaction, RTF-EXPAR', medRxiv, vol. 2021, pp. 1-7.

Carter, JG, Orueta Iturbe, L, Duprey, J-LHA, Carter, IR, Southern, CD, Rana, M, Whalley, CM, Bosworth, A, Beggs, AD, Hicks, MR, Tucker, JHR & Dafforn, TR 2021, 'Ultrarapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA using a reverse transcription-free exponential amplification reaction, RTF-EXPAR', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 118, no. 35, e2100347118.


Tucker, J, Dafforn, T, Carter, J, Duprey, J-L, Orueta Iturbe, L & Hicks, MR Jun. 09 2022, Target RNA Detection, Patent No. WO2022117816A1.


Harrison, N, Richardson, L, Pallini, C, Morano, I, Jinks, E, Cowley, J, Chan, H, Hill, HJ, Matas de las Heras, C, Teodosio, A, Lavado, AS, Dafforn, TR, Grammatopoulos, DK, Gordon, J, Brady, CA, Young, LS, Barnes, NM, Stamataki, Z & Qureshi, OS 2022 'A cell-based, spike protein binding assay highlights differences in antibody neutralising capacity for SARS-CoV-2 variants' bioRxiv.

View all publications in research portal


Professor Dafforn has extensive experience in national and international policy making in both science and Entrepreneurship policy. He has served as: 

a) Chief Scientific and Chief Entrepreneurial Advisor to the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy.

And is currently:

a) Chair of the Institute of Engineering Technology's Innovation and Skills Panel

b) Member of the Ministerial led UK Engineering Biology Leadership Council

c) Member of the Defence Science Expert Committee at the Ministry of Defence