Research Staff

Dr Marijan Bajić

Dr Marijan Bajić

Research Fellow, Future BRH

Marijan received his MSc degree in Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology from the University of Belgrade (Serbia) in 2013, and a PhD degree in Biotechnology from the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia) in 2017. During his doctoral studies at the Microprocess Engineering Research Group (University of Ljubljana), he developed miniaturized packed-bed reactors with immobilized enzymes. From 2017 to 2019, Marijan was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Department of Catalysis and Chemical Reaction Engineering (National Institute of Chemistry, Ljubljana, Slovenia). His research focus within the Future BRH will be on the development and characterization of microreactors for continuous enzymatic synthesis.

Dr Matthew Faulkner

Dr Matthew Faulkner

Research Fellow, Future BRH

Matthew graduated with an MSci in biochemistry from the University of Birmingham (UK) in 2014 and with his PhD from the University of Liverpool (UK) in 2018. During his Masters Matthew studied the impacts of nitrosative stress on Delsulfovibrio desulfuricans with Prof Jeff Cole in the Institute of Microbiology and Infection. His PhD focussed on the cyanobacterial carbon fixation machinery and carboxysome structure, function and biophysical properties using atomic force microscopy. From 2018 to 2021 Matthew was a postdoctoral research associate in Prof Nigel Scrutton’s group at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology. This postdoctoral role involved the study of terpene production. Within Future BRH he is developing novel routes to biological carbon capture utilisation and storage using photosynthetic bacteria.

Dr Tobias Hedison

Dr Tobias Hedison

Research Fellow, Future BRH

Toby received a first class degree in Biochemistry and was awarded a PhD in Biophysical Chemistry from the University of Manchester in 2016. During his postgraduate studies, he investigated the catalytic mechanism of the diflavin oxidoreductases family of enzymes, developing novel methods to examine redox-linked protein domain dynamics. From 2016, Toby was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Manchester, studying the role of redox partner tethering in enzyme catalysis and contributing his expertise in Enzymology to many research projects within the MIB. Toby is a multifaceted scientist with interests in mechanistic enzymology, biophysics, protein engineering and spectroscopic assay development. Within the Future BRH, he will focus on the development of industrial biocatalysts and high throughput assays to study enzyme turnover.

Dr Chatchai Kesornpun

Dr Chatchai Kesornpun

Research Fellow, Future BRH

Chatchai obtained his PhD in Chemical Biology from Chulabhorn Graduate Institute (CGI), Chulabhorn Royal Academy, Thailand. Chatchai then joined the Chulabhorn Research Institute (CRI), Thailand, as a postdoctoral associate working on medicinal plant natural products and investigating their biological activity, and synthesis of water-soluble betaine dyes of C3 quinolinium derivatives. Chatchai continued his postdoctoral study at Vidyasirimedhi Institute of Science and Technology (VISTEC), Thailand, working on synthetic biology aiming to produce value-added chemicals from organic waste, demonstrating scaling-up approaches for microbial cultivation and large-scale microbial fermentation. Within Future BRH Chatchai is focused on microbial fermentation at lab scale with a view to scale up and sustainable process engineering for biomanufacturing.

Dr Nicole Leferink

Dr Nicole Leferink

Research Fellow, Future BRH

Nicole Leferink is an experienced research scientist with a background in biochemistry and biotechnology. She obtained a BSc degree from the Saxion University of Applied Sciences followed by an MSc and PhD degree from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. For her postdoctoral research she joined the molecular enzymology group of Prof. Nigel Scrutton at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology. Nicole’s main research interests are rational engineering and directed evolution towards the development of designer enzyme activities for applications. Nicole has experience in enzyme discovery, characterisation, and engineering, high-throughput screening, laboratory automation, and biomanufacturing using synthetic biology.

Dr Aisling Ní Cheallaigh

Dr Aisling Ní Cheallaigh

Research Fellow, Future BRH

Aisling is an accomplished research scientist with a wealth of transferable skills gained in both academic and industrial sectors. A synthetic organic chemist by training, she is well versed in process development and scale up of high value biologically active molecules. Her work has mainly involved the synthesis of complex human and bacterial oligosaccharides and the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients. Aisling also has experience in optimisation of enzymatic cascade biotransformations to generate monoterpenoid targets. Her research interests focus on the incorporation of enzymatic processes into the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients and value added chemicals.

Dr Aled Roberts

Dr Aled Roberts

Research Fellow, Future BRH

Aled has a broad academic background spanning chemistry, materials engineering and synthetic biology. Specialising in interdisciplinary research, he hopes to bridge the gap between synthetic biology and other disciplines – such as materials science, polymer chemistry and bio-medical materials. After obtaining his MChem degree at the University of Liverpool, Aled undertook a PhD in Materials Chemistry jointly at the University of Liverpool and at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) in Singapore. Following this, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Manchester where he worked on several projects at the interface of materials science and synthetic biology.

Dr Mauro Rinaldi

Dr Mauro Rinaldi

Research Fellow, Future BRH

Mauro has a wide background in plant science, microbiology, genetics, and biotechnology that he puts together in an integrated approach to biomanufacturing. He received his BSc in Molecular Biology from the University of Buenos Aires and his PhD in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from Rice University, Houston TX, and was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of York and The University of Manchester. He has specialised in metabolic optimisation through strain engineering towards high titres and utilisation of renewable carbon feedstocks such as waste lignocellulose. His current research focus is metabolic engineering through directed evolution and improving tolerance to intermediate and end-product toxicity in production hosts through synthetic biology.

Dr Chris Robinson

Dr Chris Robinson

Research Fellow, Future BRH

Chris studied Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Manchester before earning his PhD at the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research. He then worked as a postdoc at the Paterson, studying the interactions of cell surface glycosaminoglycans with growth factors and their receptors. Chris continued his post-doctoral studies at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, engineering riboswitches as novel gene regulatory tools. In 2015, he joined SYNBIOCHEM (the Manchester synthetic biology research centre) as an experimental officer, helping to develop an automated design-build-test-learn pipeline. His current research involves the construction of biosynthetic pathways and engineering microbial host strains for the production of diverse small molecule targets, including material monomers and plant-derived alkaloids and flavonoids as active pharmaceutical ingredients. In 2022 he joined the Future BRH as a Research Fellow to continue this work.

Dr Matthew Russell

Dr Matthew Russell

Research Fellow, Future BRH

Matt is an analytical biochemist specialising in quantitative protein mass spectrometry.  He has an undergraduate masters degree in chemistry from the University of St Andrews and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge focusing on quantitative proteomics. After completing his PhD Matt worked in industry for LGC working on methods to quantify host cell contaminants in biologic medicines before returning to academic research with two postdoctoral research associate positions at the University of Manchester. In the first project Matt quantified expression of drug transporter and metabolising proteins in human gut and liver tissues to inform systems biology models to predict drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics. In the second project Matt quantified proteins expression in human serum samples to identify potential biomarkers for ovarian cancer. At Future BRH Matt is working on analytical methods to quantify enzyme expression in host strains.

Viranga Tilakaratna

Viranga Tilakaratna

Senior Research Technician, Future BRH

Viranga obtained her B.Sc in Microbiology from University of Pune, India, and Masters in Biotechnology from University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. She joined The University of Manchester as a Research Technician in 2010 and has worked with several groups across a range of areas including microbiology, molecular biology and tissue culture. Viranga’s current role is to support the overall delivery of the Future BRH research programme and provide coordination of laboratory health and safety and procurement. She works alongside the Future BRH Project Manager to ensure smooth day to day research operation of the Hub.

Dr Helen Toogood

Dr Helen Toogood

Senior Experimental Officer, Future BRH

Helen is an experienced research scientist specialising in enzymology, biotechnology and synthetic biology. She obtained her PhD degree in the biochemistry of extremophile enzymes at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. Prior postdoctoral research positions were undertaken at Yale University, University of Leicester, Exeter University and more recently at the University of Manchester. Additional skills developed during prior research include  protein crystallography, robotic laboratory automation, analytical (bio)chemistry, molecular biology and synthetic biology. Helen’s main research focus is the development of commercially viable synthetic biology routes to biofuels and other biochemicals using microorganisms as ‘microbial chassis.’ This encompasses de novo enzymatic pathway design through to laboratory scale fermentation of microbial biorefineries.

Dr Joseph Webb

Dr Joseph Webb

Research Fellow, Future BRH

Joe received a BSc(Hons) in microbiology from the University of Sheffield before completing a PhD in biotechnology at the University of Nottingham. His first postdoc was at the Synthetic Biology Research Centre at the University of Nottingham before moving to the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Sheffield. Joe’s projects have all focused on metabolic engineering of microbial chassis to produce industrially relevant chemicals at high titre. He hopes to bring these skills to the Future BRH where he will focus on developing microbial strains for the bioproduction of various chemicals.

Dr John Whittall

Dr John Whittall

Research Fellow, Future BRH

John Whittall has over 40 years’ experience as an industrial research chemist working for several University spin-out companies as well as larger chemical companies, and as such has the experience of taking several products from initial research concept to the research bench and into industrial application in diverse areas.  Skilled in process development and the scaling-up of reactions along with two novel processes invented to solve problems for larger scale pharmaceutical synthesis, John has edited books in the fields of optoelectronics, precious metal catalysis and biocatalysis including the recent publication Applied Biocatalysis: The Chemist’s Enzyme Toolbox.  At CoEBio3, John was responsible for developing several consortia including FP7 and H2020 applications that attracted significant funding in the field of Industrial Biocatalysis.

Dr Jonathan Wilkes

Dr Jonathan Wilkes

Research Fellow, Future BRH

Jonathan received his BSc in Natural Sciences and MSc in Industrial and Commercial Biotechnology from the University of Newcastle. He then moved to the University of Manchester to complete his PhD under the supervision of Prof. Nigel Scrutton, in the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology. His PhD research explored the development and application of single domain antibodies as tools for synthetic biology, with specific applications for the modulation of monoterpenoid production in E. coli. Prior to joining the Future BRH team, he took up a postdoctoral research associate position in the Scrutton Lab exploring similar themes. Jonathan’s research interests include metabolic engineering and the application of ‘Design of Experiments’ for the development of microbial cell factories.

Yiheng Yang

Yiheng Yang

Research Fellow, Future BRH

Yiheng received his BEng in Food Technology from Zhejiang Gongshang University (China) in 2015, then completed his MSc (2016) and PhD (2022) in Biochemical Engineering at the University College London. Yiheng’s PhD was associated with the UKRI-funded project ConBioChem, which aims to enable economically-viable continuous bio-production of commodity chemicals. This work involved a significant amount of microbial fermentation monitoring and control, strain and process optimisation as well as kinetic model development. Within the Future BRH Yiheng is working on the development of transferable models for monitoring, control and optimization of Halomonas continuous fermentation.