Dr Nadanai Laohakunakorn, originally from Bangkok, obtained his BA/MSci in Natural Sciences (Physics) from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2010. He remained in Cambridge to carry out his PhD under the supervision of Prof Ulrich Keyser, where he studied nanopores and single-molecule biophysics. In particular, his work focused on electrically-driven fluid flows generated within the confined geometries of nanopores, and he developed techniques to measure and characterise these effects using optical tweezers. After defending his thesis in 2015, he moved to Lausanne where he worked with Prof Sebastian Maerkl at EPFL, on the new and growing field of cell-free synthetic biology. His work there focused on combining microfluidic devices with cell-free gene expression systems for high-throughput and rapid prototyping of genetic parts and circuits. In 2019 he received a Chancellor's Fellowship in Biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh, enabling him to establish a lab for quantitative engineering of cell-free systems. In 2021 he received a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship.
Dr Sahan Liyanagedera is working in collaboration with the Edinburgh Genome Foundry on developing high-throughput methods to screen the PURE system against putative components which are hypothesised to enhance either its yield or its function. Originally from Sri Lanka, he grew up in London and went on to study Biomedical Sciences at the Peninsula School of Medicine, University of Plymouth and graduated in 2015. Excited by the rapid advances in Biotechnology, he pursued a Masters in Research in Synthetic Biology at UCL under the supervision of Dr Darren Nesbeth. Here he developed a de-novo Transketolase and Transaminase fusion enzyme that could be utilised for the one-pot synthesis of chiral amino-alcohols in the industrially relevant host Pichia pastoris. In 2017 he secured a 4-year EPSRC-funded PhD position in the lab of Dr Vishwesh Kulkarni at the University of Warwick. During this time, he developed the TXTL-based SpyPhage Platform that enables the rapid cell-free production and post-translational modification of bacteriophages for phage therapy. In his spare time, he enjoys playing football and cricket with friends and long bicycle rides on gravel tracks in the countryside.
Dr Antonios Bougas is working on a collaborative project between the Laohakunakorn group and the Burgess group at the EdinOmics facility. He is investigating the role of metabolites derived from energy regeneration pathways and their impact on protein synthesis which is used to power cell-free systems. Originally from Corinthia, he graduated from the Department of Biology, University of Patras, Greece. Subsequently, he secured a PhD fellowship through the competitive call from the Greek State Scholarships Foundation and carried on his postgraduate studies at the Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, Patras. During that time, he focused on the study of both eukaryotic and bacterial ribosomes, in the process of evaluating novel protein synthesis inhibitors. Specifically, he investigated the kinetics and context-specificity of antibiotics targeting the bacterial ribosome, as well as their effect on the emerging translatome using high-throughput techniques. During his leisure time he enjoys playing basketball with friends and practising amateur photography as an excuse to travel to new places.
Dr Sandy Nelson is a PhD student funded by the CDT in Biomedical AI. He is researching robust biodesign for cell-free systems using probabilistic approaches, working jointly with the Gutmann group (Informatics), the Laohakunakorn group and the Weiße group (IQB3). He studied physics and experimental psychology at Durham University then a PhD in cognitive science at Edinburgh University. While there, he was involved in research projects at the School of Informatics on computational models of memory and text processing. In 2017 Sandy joined DeepMind as founding product manager for its Science Team. He program managed the application of machine learning to protein folding and problems in physics including glassy dynamics and Density Functional Theory. Before DeepMind, Sandy spent 10 years at Amazon as a Senior Software Development Manager, where he was responsible for worldwide dynamic personalised merchandising and led teams mining the product catalogue for relationships that drove features like AutoRip, movie discovery on Fire TV and music discovery on Echo.
Christoph Wagner is an EASTBIO-funded PhD student, researching the ability of cells to self-regenerate their components. He is carrying out his work jointly between the Laohakunakorn group, where he conducts cell-free microfluidics experiments on maximally controlled transcription-translation systems, and the Weiße group in IQB3, where his results inform models to predict the self-regenerating behaviour. He wants to understand, what parameters govern this aspect of life and how we can optimise them in the context of synthetic cells. After betraying the love for his hometown Cologne, he both finished his Bachelor's in Quantitative Biology and subsequently studied his Master's in Synthetic Biology in Düsseldorf, Germany. There, he explored the possibility of quantitatively engineering a plant's phenotype by means of genetic modification, which sparked his enthusiasm for interfacing nature and technology. In his free time, you may find him writing short stories on his blog about all things science, practicing amateur woodworking or running, usually in circles.
Sarah Paterson is a PhD student funded by the Leverhulme Trust working on cell-free protein synthesis using high throughput microfluidics. She holds a Master's in pharmacy from the University of Strathclyde as well as an MSc in Biomedical Engineering. Sarah gained experience in cell culture working within the start-up company “ScreenIn3D” using microfluidic platforms to create 3D tumour microenvironments for drug screening assays. She is interested in applying engineering principles to the design and construction of biological systems. As a keen runner you’ll find Sarah running around muddy fields on weekends competing in cross country races.
Surendra Yadav is a Darwin Trust doctoral student who's working to construct synthetic metabolism to efficiently power PURE cell-free systems. Before joining the University of Edinburgh for his Ph.D, he completed his Masters from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali, India. During his Master's thesis, he worked under the supervision of Prof. Anand K. Bachhawat to investigate the role of 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase in cellular metabolism of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Being a curious undergrad student he tried to dive and gain experience in different fields of biology by doing various internships and summer research projects. In his undergraduate studies he worked with Dr. Lolitika Mandal at IISER Mohali to understand hematopoiesis, and utilized the UAS-GAL4 bipartite system for the development of various uncommon traits in Drosophila melanogaster such as ectopic eyes. He was intrigued by the field of synthetic biology and its useful applications while he was undergoing his Masters thesis, and decided to pursue his Ph.D in cell-free synthetic biology. Surendra is a cricket enthusiast, and also likes to spend his free-time playing guitar and sipping tea.
Alex Perkins is a BBSRC doctoral student working on the scaling up of industrial cell-free protein expression in partnership with Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies. Joining the group from Imperial College, he completed an MRes in Synthetic Biology under the watchful eyes of Drs Polizzi and Ceroni where he worked on optimising quorum-sensing devices using directed evolution and investigating metabolic burden via RNA-seq analysis. In the private sector, he spent a stint working under Dr Martin on neonatal stem-cell storage and differentiation at Cells4Life and collaborated with OpenCell to develop a cheap, opensource, automated, high-throughput Covid-19 RT-qPCR testing system. As a fresh-faced undergraduate, he obtained a Biomed BSc from UCL where he focused on molecular mechanisms of HepC-induced cellular changes and the lasting effects of Ebola virus during convalescence. Originally hailing from the Sussex countryside, he can be found cooking, coding, and writing in the third person. He is interested in how modern computing and statistical methods can be applied to Bio Big Data to find better solutions in bioengineering applications.
Aarushi Ruhela is a PhD student funded by the University of Edinburgh, working on the interface of electronics and synthetic biology. She is co-supervised by Dr Jamie Marland in the School of Engineering, where she will be working on developing a multiplexed electronic readout system for biochemical reactions inside microfluidic devices. In the Laohakunakorn group, she is currently working to prepare optimised E.coli lysates to express horseradish peroxidase, which will be used as a reporter for her electronic system. Aarushi moved to UK from India in 2021 because of her keen interests to learn and explore cancer research. She did her MRes from the Imperial College London in cancer technology where she developed a microfluidics device to study the interaction between cancer organoids and immune cells. Later, she joined the Institute of Cancer Research to explore more about the cancer biology and study the heterogeneity in PDAC. She is a biochemical engineer from her undergraduate degree; therefore, she has a good experience with always working on the bridge between biology and engineering. In her free time, she loves to read about philosophy and write small quotes. In addition, she also enjoys painting and photography.
Dev Vaidya is a BSc honours student studying Molecular Biology. He worked over the summer as member and leader of the iDEC and iGEM teams at the university, which investigated the directed evolution of metallothioneins and cell-free transcriptional biosensors for heavy metals. This is where he got introduced to cell-free systems. He is currently pursuing a project on tethering enzymes in an ATP regeneration pathway. In his free time, Dev likes to cook spicy food, take care of challenging houseplants and play the piano.
- Paula Paredes Vergara, Summer student (University of Glasgow)
- Tim Bosse, Hons student (Edinburgh)
- Yan Ting Hee, Hons student (Edinburgh)
- Dominik Kopčak, Undergraduate student (Edinburgh)
- Katie Bexley, Integrative Cell Mechanisms rotation student (Edinburgh)
- Meijie Liu, MSc student (Edinburgh)
- Bastien Mollet, VRes exchange student (ENS Lyon)
- Sasirasa Pratumsuwan, Hons student (Edinburgh)
- Yehezkiel Victorio, MSc student (Edinburgh)
- Ying Yang, MSc and IGEM student (Edinburgh)
- Yutong Ke, MSc student (Edinburgh)
- Maria Fernandez, Hons student (Edinburgh)
- Baird McIlwraith, Hons student (Edinburgh)