Professor Tim Dafforn PhD

Dr Tim Dafforn

School of Biosciences
Professor of Biotechnology

Contact details

School of Biosciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

60 second video icon  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 and is currently the director of knowledge transfer for the college of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham.


BSc (Hons) Biochemistry(Cardiff University)

PhD ProteinEngineering (Bristol University) 


I began my science career studying protein engineering under Professor J. John Holbrook at the Bristol University. During these studies I developing 2 approaches to enzyme engineering based on forced evolution and rational design. I moved to a PDRA position in the laboratory of Professor Robin Carrell FRS in the Cambridge Institute of Medical Research. Working with Dr Arthur Lesk I studied the mechanism of action of a class of serine proteinase inhibitors (SERPINS) involved in innate immunity and blood clotting. During this time I defined a mechanistic and structural explanation which underlies a group of diseases known as serpinopathies. In 2003 I was awarded a prestigious MRC Career development fellowship to continue my work on the SERPINS, as part of this I worked with Professor Alison Rodger (Warwick) to establish Linear Dichroism as an important technique for the study of membrane proteins and protein fibres. More recently I have developed three research strands all enabled by linear dichroism. Firstly I have produced insights into the assemblies that underlie bacterial cell division. Secondly I have developed a novel method that trivializes the production of membrane proteins enabling advances in bioprocessing. Finally I have developed a platform bioassay that represents one of the first commercial applications of synthetic biology.


Impact has become a keyword in British science, my teaching aims to embed an impact ethos at the earliest stages of undergraduate and postgraduate training. I believe this can be achieved by first highlighting the wonders of the biological science and then showing how anyone can commercialize science for the common good.


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. My research is focused upon studying these wonders, understanding how they assemble and harnessing their function for good. Currently my 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 2 of these projects have provided 7 patents that are currently the focus of two commercialisation projects.

Other activities

I take a keen interest in wider aspects of science policy being a member of Senate at the University of Birmingham and a member of Council at the Biochemical Society. When not working I spend time watching my sons play rugby, rebuilding classic cars and sleeping.


  1. Laursen T., Borch J., Knudsen C., Bavishi K., Torta F.,  Martens H.J., Silvestro D., Hatzakis N.S., Wenk M.R., Dafforn T.R.,  Olsen C.E., Motawia M.S., Hamberger B., Lindberg Møller B. and Bassard J-E., (2016) isolation and in vivo characteristics of the dynamic dhurrin metabolon. Science (in Press)
  2. Lee, SC   Knowles TJ, Postis, VLG, Jamshad, M, Parslow, RA, Lin, Y-P,  Goldman, A,  Sridhar, P, Overduin, M, Muench, SP, Dafforn, TR. (2016) A Method for Detergent-free isolation of Membrane Protein with its Local Lipid Environment.  Nature Protocols (in Press)
  3. Wheatley M, Charlton J, Jamshad M, Routledge SJ, Bailey S, La-Border PJ, Azam MT, Logan RT, Bill RM, Dafforn TR, Poyner DR. (2016) GPCR-styrene maleic acid lipid particles (GPCR-SMALPs): their nature and potential. Biochem Soc Trans. Apr 15;44(2):619-2
  4. Lee SC, Khalid S, Pollock NL, Knowles TJ, Edler K, Rothnie AJ, R T Thomas O, Dafforn TR. Encapsulated membrane proteins: A simplified system for molecular simulation. (2016) Biochim Biophys Acta. (16)30079-7
  5. Carr-Smith J, Pacheco-Gómez R, Little HA,  Hicks MR, Sandhu S, Steinke N, Smith DJ, Rodger A, Goodchild SA, Lukaszewski RA, Tucker JH, Dafforn TR. (2015) Polymerase Chain Reaction on a Viral Nanoparticle. ACS Synth Biol. 4(12):1316-25
  6. Daniela P. Lobo, Alan M. Wemyss, David J. Smith, Anne Straube, Kai B. Betteridge, Andrew H.J. Salmon, Rebecca R. Foster, Hesham E. Elhegni, Simon C. Satchell, Haydn A. Little, Raúl Pacheco-Gómez, Mark J. Simmons, Matthew R. Hicks, David O. Bates, Alison Rodger, Timothy R. Dafforn, and Kenton P. Arkill, (2015) Direct detection and measurement of wall shear stress using a filamentous bio-nanoparticle. Nanoresearch 8(10) 3307-3315
  7. Jamshad M, Grimard, V, Idini, I, Knowles, T.J., Dowle, M., Schofield,N., Sridhar, P., Lin, Y-L., Finka, R., Wheatley, M., Thomas, O.R.T., Palmer, R.E., Overduin, M., Govaerts, C., Ruysschaert, J-M., Edler, K. J., Dafforn, T.R., (2015) Structural analysis of a nanoparticle containing a lipid bilayer used for detergent-free extraction of membrane proteins. Nanoresearch 8(3) 774-789
  8. Jamshad M., Charlton J., Lin Y.P., Routledge S.J., Bawa Z., Knowles T.J., Overduin M., Dekker N., Dafforn T.R., Bill R.M., Poyner D.R., Wheatley M. G-Protein-Coupled Receptor Solubilization and Purification for Biophysical Analysis and Functional Studies, in the Total Absence of Detergent. Biosci Rep. 35(2)
  9. Postis V., Rawson S., Mitchell J.K., Lee S.C., Parslow R.A., Dafforn T.R., Baldwin S.A., Muench S.P. The use of SMALPs as a novel membrane protein scaffold for structure study by negative stain electron microscopy. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2015 Feb;1848(2):496-501
  10. Sinden N.J., Baker M.J., Smith D.J., Kreft J.U., Dafforn T.R., Stockley R.A. α-1-antitrypsin variants and the proteinase/antiproteinase imbalance in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2015;308(2):L179-90
  11. Dörr J.M., Koorengevel M.C., Schäfer M., Prokofyev A.V., Scheidelaar S., van der Cruijsen E.A., Dafforn T.R., Baldus M., Killian J.A. Detergent-free isolation, characterization, and functional reconstitution of a tetrameric K+ channel: the power of native nanodiscs. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Dec 30;111(52):18607-12.
  12. Zhu Y., Jameson E., Parslow R.A., Lidbury I., Fu T., Dafforn T.R., Schäfer H., Chen Y. Identification and characterization of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) demethylase and TMAO permease in Methylocella silvestris BL2. Environ Microbiol. 2014 Oct;16(10):3318-30. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.12585
  13. Gulati S., Jamshad M., Knowles T.J., Morrison K.A., Downing R., Cant N., Collins R., Koenderink J.B., Ford R.C., Overduin M., Kerr I.D., Dafforn T.R., Rothnie A.J. Detergent free purification of ABC transporters. Biochem J. 2014 Apr 23.
  14. Berwick MR, Lewis DJ, Jones AW, Parslow RA, Dafforn TR, Cooper HJ, Wilkie J, Pikramenou Z, Britton MM, Peacock AF. De novo design of Ln(III) coiled coils for imaging applications. J Am Chem Soc. 2014 Jan 29;136(4):1166-9. 

View all publications in research portal


Biotechnology strategy (currently on secondment to BEIS), synthetic biology: