he programme addresses the manufacture and exploitation of biological products for healthcare and sustainable feedstocks. Within healthcare we are focussing on the supply chain needs of emerging regenerative medicines for which stem cells must be made and stored in a stable form for distribution to clinics for use on demand. Currently available technologies require that cells are used within a very short time of production, which allows no supply chain flexibility. From previous research we have found that red blood cells can be stabilised for frozen, or even dried, storage by loading with cryoprotectants using synthetic transduction factors. We are now working to extend this stabilisation technology to stem cells and other mammalian cell lines. Within sustainable feedstocks we have previously developed technologies for the manufacture of biodiesel by photosynthetic micro-algae. This technology might be deployed in Saudi but suffers from the problem that the glycerol waste product currently has little value. Recently, we have identified photosynthetic microorganisms that are able to convert glycerol to hydrogen with high yield and purity. Within the KACST project we are exploring how these organisms might be incorporated into an integrated process for biodiesel and hydrogen manufacture. We also envisage that these organisms will find use in the treatment of oil-sludge and other waste materials from the petrochemicals industry.
Photo credit: Professor Nigel K H Slater