Gary Lye leads the UCL Bioconversion-Chemistry-Engineering Interface (BiCE) Programme. This involves a multidisciplinary group of researchers interested in novel approaches to speed the development of the next generation of complex pharmaceuticals and methods to aid the uptake and integration of biocatalysis in pharmaceutical syntheses. The programme brings together a group of researchers from three UCL faculties with a long history of collaboration including Professor John Ward (Structural and Molecular Biology) and Dr Helen Hailes (Chemistry) together with Dr Frank Baganz, Dr Paul Dalby, Dr Martina Micheletti and Dr Nicolas Szita (Biochemical Engineering). It is supported by a group of 13 leading national and international companies who comprise the BiCE Industrial Steering Group.
A major focus of Gary’s work is the creation of novel automated micro biochemical approaches to speed bioprocess design and optimisation. This has been facilitated by a recent £4.5M investment in the UCL Centre for Micro Biochemical Engineering which he manages. The research focuses on the detailed engineering characterisation of automated microwell systems in order to enable accurate predictions of large scale process performance. These predictions can then be verified in the department\’s large scale bioprocessing facilities. Related studies have addressed miniature stirred bioreactor technologies which have now been commercialised.
In collaboration with BiCE colleagues these micro biochemical engineering approaches are being applied to the evaluation of both evolved and metabolically engineered biocatalysts and integrated chemo-enzymatic syntheses. Studies as part of the IMRC in Bioprocessing and in collaboration with the UK Health Protection Agency (Porton Down) have helped established the manufacture of a new meningococcal vaccine which is now in clinical trials. Most recently collaboration with Dr Chris Mason and Dr Farlan Veraitch within the RegenMed programme has led to studies on the automated expansion and differentiation of stem cells for use in drug screening and human cell therapy.
Funding for the above research has come from the UK EPSRC, the TSB Technology Programme and a range of company collaborators.