We are a multidisciplinary group based in the Chemistry Department at Imperial College London. We engineer soft-matter devices that are on cellular legthscales. We use Chemical Biology to engineer user-defined functions into these devices, often by incorporating biomolecular machinery. Increasingly, we interface these synthetic system with living ones, for example by embedding engineered microbes inside. This challenge requires us to develop new technologies, use new chemistry, and have a core molecular understanding of the systems we are working with. For this reason, we are a diverse bunch, with group members having backgrounds in the Natural Sciences and Molecular Engineering. Our core research themes are given below.
Bottom-up Synthetic Biology
We functionalise soft-matter microsystems with a host of biological machinery (DNA, enzymes, protein channels, and large-scale complexes) to make artificial cells that can be used:
1. To preform biotechnologically relevant functions (e.g. reactors, sensors, delivery vehicles)
2. As cell models to study cell biology in a simplified environment.
We interface living and inanimate matter both physically and chemically.
We embed living cells and organelles within soft-microsystems, and allow them to confer functionality into the hybrid as a whole.
We create populations of interacting living and synthetic cells.
Higher order structures
We link up artificial cells in 2D and 3D to form the building blocks of higher order, tissue-like structures.
Microfluidics and Optofluidics
We develop novel droplet microfluidic and optical trapping technologies to construct, manipulate, and study soft-matter systems
We develop techniques to generate various forms of compartmentalisation in soft-microsystems. We engineer compartmentalisation both in 3D and in 2D (i.e. on surfaces).
We explore the biochemical consequences of compartmentalisation, and exploit this feature to design responsive systems that are dormant until active upon encounteriing defined stimuli.