Researcher biography

Qualifications and honours

  • Officer of the British Empire (OBE), New Year Honours, 2010
  • FREng, FInstP, FRSC
  • Pierce Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Affinity Chromatography, 1989; David Curnow Prize in Clinical Chemistry, 1991; Schlumberger Stichting Prize, 1994; Queen's Award for Technological Achievement, 1996
  • Silver Jubilee Medal - Chromatographic Society, 2002; Fellow, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, 2002
  • Henry Dale Medal and Prize, The Royal Institution (London), 2003; Life Membership, The Royal Institution (London), 2003; Royal Society of Chemistry Industrially-Sponsored Award in Sensors, Medal and Prize, 2005
  • Dade-Behring Award for Clinical Chemistry, 2006; "Most Entrepreneurial Scientist of the UK" Award: UKSEC, 2006
  • Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education: The Royal Anniversary Trust, 2007
  • IET Prestige Lecture, 2008
  • Finalist, BBSRC Innovator of the Year, 2010
  • Gates Scholars Distinguished Lecture, 2011
  • BBSRC Commercial Innovator of the Year, 2011
  • Visiting Professorship Australian National University, 2013

Research description

My group's primary research interest is in healthcare biotechnology, particularly where it is applied to the high-value low-volume sectors of biopharmaceuticals, sensors and diagnostics and microbial technology. The work is highly multidisciplinary and not only covers aspects of molecular biology, biochemistry, microbiology, chemistry, physics, electronics and engineering, but also the entire range from fundamental science to strategic and applied science, much of which has significant commercial application.


My group has been involved since 1970 in the development of a variety of novel high-resolution affinity techniques for the purification of high value biopharmaceutical proteins. The key drivers for the bioprocessing industry of reducing costs, achieving greater manufacturing flexibility, coupled with the impact of the human genome project, regulatory and environmental changes and the implications of the concept of the well-characterised biologic all present new challenges to the bioprocess engineer. My group has been involved in the development of highly selective separation technologies based on affinity chromatography since inception of the technique in 1967. The first monograph in this subject was authored by myself and published in 1974 and is still regarded as the standard text. Over the years we have introduced new concepts such as immobilised coenzymes and "group specific" adsorbents, "biomimetic" ligands and the notion of de novo ligand design and intelligent combinatorial libraries. Current work is aimed at exploiting computer-aided molecular design and rational combinatorial chemistry for the development of affinity adsorbents for target biopharmaceuticals, particularly clotting factors and immunotherapeutics, developing techniques for the resolution of variants and post-translational isoforms, introducing novel combinatorial chemistries using multi-component Ugi-Passerini reactions and developing new methods for fractionating the human serum proteome.

Biosensors and Diagnostics

My group has been heavily committed to promoting the imaginative combination of biological science with electronics and materials science for the development of novel biosensors and diagnostics . Current work is aimed at developing novel technologies for multiplexed assays, point-of-care, developing world and real-time continuous monitoring of patients suffering debilitation diseases. This combination of new transducer and underpinning technologies, with financial support from the BBSRC and many other organisations, has led to tangible deliverables, including the formation of three new companies, Affinity Sensors Ltd (formerly Fisons Applied Sensor Technology Ltd), Cambridge Sensors Ltd (formerly Environmental Sensors Ltd), Smart Holograms Ltd, Rebha Ltd and Paramata Ltd.

Enzyme, Protein and Microbial Technology

My group has accrued considerable expertise in enzyme and microbial technology over the last 15-20 years and has a special interest in coenzyme-requiring enzymic processes for application in biotransformations and biosensors. Much of this work originated in early work on immobilised nicotinamide nucleotide coenzymes (NAD(P)(H)) for applications in affinity chromatography, although it was quickly realised that such systems had significant implications in enzyme technology if such immobilised coenzymes were coenzymically active. More recently, a programme on biomimetic coenzymes designed to synthesise novel durable redox coenzymes based on a template molecule, the blue textile dye, Cibacron Blue F3G-A, led subsequently to the use of computer-aided molecular design to generate redox coenzymes de novo. More recent work has exploited microorganisms as a source of novel enzymes for use in biosensors for illicit drugs, heavy metals and other analytes of interest to the oil exploration industry. In current work, we are pioneering the use of nano-scale reactors and are engaged in a fundamental study of germinant receptor function in spore germination. This study is expected to lead to new rapid diagnostics for sporogenic pathogens, potential vaccines and more rational decontamination procedures.