The microalgal photosynthetic machinery captures and channels light energy into chemical stores of energy and reducing equivalents, which can be exploited to drive industrial enzymes such as the powerful and versatile Cytochrome P450 family. These “molecular blowtorches” can be harnessed for green chemistry and to facilitate chemical transformations which are difficult with conventional approaches.    

Objective/mission (The vision): To generate microalgae expressing P450s coupled to photosynthesis and to demonstrate light-driven industrial and pharmaceutical syntheses in these cells.

Research approach (The initiative): In collaboration with Prof Gillam’s group (SCMB) we have transfected thermostable ancestral P450 variants into microalgae and are testing them for light-switchable chemical transformations.

Impacts and applications: Light-controlled, highly active P450s in microalgae will enable efficient chemical transformations for otherwise difficult or impossible chemical reactions, expanding chemical space and reducing the cost and environmental impact of industrial chemistry.

Partners/collaborators: Prof E Gillam, SCMB, Astra Zeneca (Sweden)

Project members

Key contacts

Professor Ben Hankamer

Director, IMB Centre for Solar Biotechnology
Professorial Research Fellow - GL
Institute for Molecular Bioscience