Understanding and exploiting supramolecular self-assembly of protein-based nanoparticles

Dr Frank Sainsbury is an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Awardee investigating innovative approaches to developing novel vaccines and nano-scale therapeutic vehicles. He is using biomolecular engineering of virus-like particles (VLPs) and peptide-stabilised nano-scale emulsions to create protein-based nanoparticles with sophisticated properties for intracellular protein delivery and cell-specific targeting of drugs and imaging agents. These advanced applications are underpinned by fundamental research in molecular self-assemble of VLPs and the interfacial properties of peptide-stabilised emulsions. Deep understanding of the structure-function relationship of both particle types guides the development of purification and assembly processes as well as enabling their controlled functionalization.

Dr Sainsbury’s background is in the plant-based production of pharmaceutically relevant proteins, principally VLPs, and is a 2012 recipient of the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Innovator of the Year award in recognition of his work in plant-based vaccine production and his role in achieving impact for this ground breaking technology. The granted patent resulting from this work is licensed for the production of influenza vaccines currently in late-stage clinical trials and underpins a recent £5M UK Government (BBSRC) investment in a facility to exploit the technology. Dr Sainsbury carried out industry-funded postdoctoral work on the manufacture and engineering of VLPs as drug delivery vehicles and inorganic particle templates. This was followed by a stint at Laval Univeristy, Canada where Dr Sainsbury is now an Adjunct Professor and postgraduate student supervisor. His work there pioneered the use of synthetic biology to modify whole plant hosts for recombinant protein production and protein engineering in plant biotechnology.

Key Publications

Engineering recombinant virus-like nanoparticles from plants for cellular delivery

Brillault, Lou, Jutras, Philippe V., Dashti, Noor , Thuenemann, Eva C., Morgan, Garry, Lomonossoff, George P., Landsberg, Michael J. and Sainsbury, Frank (2017) Engineering recombinant virus-like nanoparticles from plants for cellular delivery. ACS Nano11 4: 3476-3484. doi:10.1021/acsnano.6b07747

Modulating secretory pathway pH by proton channel co-expression can increase recombinant protein stability in plants

Jutras, Philippe V., D'Aoust, Marc-Andre, Couture, Manon M.-J., Vezina, Louis-Philippe, Goulet, Marie-Claire, Michaud, Dominique and Sainsbury, Frank (2015) Modulating secretory pathway pH by proton channel co-expression can increase recombinant protein stability in plants. Biotechnology Journal10 9: 1478-1486. doi:10.1002/biot.201500056

Assembly and purification of polyomavirus-like particles from plants

Catrice, Emeline V. B. and Sainsbury, Frank (2015) Assembly and purification of polyomavirus-like particles from plants. Molecular Biotechnology57 10: 904-913. doi:10.1007/s12033-015-9879-9

Peptide-Controlled Access to the Interior Surface of Empty Virus Nanoparticles

Sainsbury, Frank, Saunders, Keith, Aljabali, Alaa A. A., Evans, David J. and Lomonossoff, George P. (2011) Peptide-Controlled Access to the Interior Surface of Empty Virus Nanoparticles. Chembiochem12 16: 2435-2440. doi:10.1002/cbic.201100482

Extremely High-Level and Rapid Transient Protein Production in Plants without the Use of Viral Replication

Sainsbury, Frank and Lomonossoff, George P. (2008) Extremely High-Level and Rapid Transient Protein Production in Plants without the Use of Viral Replication. Plant Physiology148 3: 1212-1218. doi:10.1104/pp.108.126284

Full list of publications available on espace

Funding

​To date Dr Sainsbury's research has been supported by an Australian Research Council (DECRA), a UQ ECR Grant, UniQuest Pathfinder and Contract Research grants, and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.