The Vickers lab is based at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) at The University of Queensland (see here for AIBN group website). We apply synthetic biology approaches to answering key fundamental biological questions and to development/improvement of industrial bio-processes. In particular, we are interested in using biology to replace current industrial practices (largely based on finite petrochemical resources) with sustainable, environmentally friendly processes. To this end, we use the tools of systems and synthetic biology for metabolic engineering of organisms. Metabolic engineering is the rational redesign of organisms for production of specific industrially-useful compounds.
We are particularly interested in a large group of natural products called isoprenoids. Isoprenoids have many different biological functions, and they also have a multitude of biotechnological applications (e.g. biofuels, agricultural chemicals, flavours, fragrances, pharmaceuticals, food additives).
We currently work in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Escherichia coli, cyanobacteria (Synechocystis and Synechococcus spp.), Pseudomonas putida, and plants (various species). The research program spans the following key themes:
- Core Isoprenoid Pathways: Understanding Metabolic Regulation & Engineering
- Isoprenoid Biofuels and Industrial Biochemicals (a wide variety of industrially-useful biochemicals)
- Tools for Synthetic Biology (transformation vectors, expression control systems, chromosome engineering tools, reporter systems, synthetic sensor-response circuits, etc.)
- Feedstock Pathway Engineering (engineering improved sucrose utilization for bioprocesses)
- Biogenic Isoprene Emission (how and why is isoprene produced by plants)
- Beer Systems Biology (systems biology for beer quality)
These diverse areas are linked though application of synthetic biology to understand fundamental biology, and applying this understanding to industrial bioprocesses.
We are experienced in working closely with colleagues in other disciplines and with a wide range companies interested in pursuing emerging opportunities in these fields.