Here you can read about the different sources of funding that support my research at KTH Glycoscience, including the goals and timelines of each funded project. The paragraphs below are taken directly from my successful funding applications, and lay out my plans for each research project. Check my academic publication record to see how each project is actually going!!
Wood Nanotechnology – New Materials from Trees.
Ongoing support from the Wallenberg Wood Science Centre.
We are grateful for ongoing salary support for Lauren and Ioanna from the Wallenberg Wood Science Centre. This enables our work and education activities related to the biosynthesis, fractionation, and exploitation of wood and wood components, primarily aiming at biorefinery and biomaterial applications. The WWSC and associated Treesearch community offers networking opportunities, graduate schools, infrastructure access, and a direct line to experts in academia and industry in Sweden.
Rheological characterisation of sustainable hydrogels exploiting a newly discovered protein:carbohydrate interaction.
Funded by the Carl Trygger Foundation. 2022-2024.
We have developed a novel route to producing useful hydrogels from branched polysaccharides that avoids the chemical synthesis and fossil-based polymers used in current manufacture. In our molecular biology lab, we lack the resources necessary for a critical aspect of our work – we don’t have any reliable access to a rheometer, although rheological analysis of our hydrogels is absolutely vital for understanding the strength, properties, and potential applications of our materials. Thanks to this funding, we are now able to purchase an advanced rheometer for our lab!
A new sustainable route to polysaccharide hydrogel formation for medical and cosmetic applications.
Funded by Formas, the Swedish research council for sustainability. 2020-2023.
Hydrogels are an extremely versatile class of material, and have found relevance in cosmetic, medical, pharmaceutical, and industrial processes. A hydrogel has a low solid content, often comprising at least 90% water. Although hydrogels are increasingly used in cosmetics and drug manufacture, the production process is far from sustainable, relying on fossil-based polymers and chemical synthesis steps, using compounds that are harmful to human health. I have discovered that certain proteins can be used to cross-link polysaccharides (complex carbohydrate polymers), thereby creating a hydrogel network. The process avoids all chemical solvents, and allows us to use renewable biopolymers of natural origin, rather than fossil-based polymers. The polysaccharides we can use derive from biomass processing waste streams, promoting a circular bioeconomy and smart use of resources.
Engineering improved stability and substrate binding into enzymes for efficient hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass.
Funded by the Swedish energy agency. 2020-2025.
The overall aim of this project is to enhance the efficiency of industrial biomass saccharification for biofuel production by designing and engineering new enzymes with enhanced hydrolytic capabilities and high thermostability. In my Vetenskapsrådet-funded Etableringsbidrag (Starter Grant) project (see below), I have discovered a new class of small domains found in some bacterial enzymes, and have demonstrated that they provide a truly significant boost to enzyme thermostability and hydrolytic capacity on complex biomass.
INTENT: INducible TransgENic Technology for disease resistance in plants
Funded by Vetenskapsrådet, the Swedish research council for basic science. 2017-2021.
The overall aim of INTENT is to improve crop plant defences against emerging infectious fungal diseases. This multi-disciplinary project will combine biochemistry, molecular biology, and plant pathology. I will design and implement a new method of plant biotechnology where transgene expression for plant defence is induced by the specific fungal glycans encountered in the early stages of pathogen exposure. This will offer greater efficiency and specificity than innate plant defence systems. In the next phase of my career, I look forward to applying my skills to the challenges of food security, soil conservation, and climate change. With the support of Vetenskapsrådet, my goal with INTENT is to gain autonomy, and begin to establish a competitive new research team. I will create a niche for us to lead in a new area of environmental science. My long-term ambition is to understand the roles of soil bacteria in biomass recycling and plant health, and to be inspired by these species to develop new technologies for sustainable agriculture and forestry, built on a strong foundation of molecular science.
Enzymatic epoxidation of suberin monomers for thermoset production.
Funded by the Wallenberg Wood Science Centre. 2018-2020.
The epoxidation of suberin and cutin to increase the content of epoxidised compounds would increase the yield of polymers available for the lipase-based production of thermosetting bioplastics. This would valorise a waste-stream from the wood biorefinery, as bark is always removed from the wood prior to processing. We will characterise newly identified epoxidase enzymes from plants and microorganisms that introduce epoxy groups to long chain fatty acids, and use them to epoxidise the monomers of suberin/cutin. These will be used to make new materials produced without the use of petroleum-derived chemicals, which will therefore represent a sustainable high-value product.
New approaches to the prevention of fungal disease in young trees inspired by beneficial soil bacteria.
Funded by the Anna and Nils Håkansson Foundation. 2017.
Soil bacteria produce enzymes that attack the cell walls of pathogenic fungi. I will discover new anti-fungal enzymes for disease prevention in young trees. The enzymes will be applied directly or be incorporated into new bio-active materials. The use of natural soil-bacterial enzymes prevents the introduction of ‘foreign’ proteins to the forest ecosystem and reduces pesticide use. The project will involve gene cloning, protein production, enzyme characterisation, and material chemistry.