Biological Chemistry

Professor Mark Banfield is the Head of the Biological Chemistry department.

Biological Chemistry carries out scientific research on molecular processes in plants and microorganisms.

The department explores the structure and function of macromolecules in a range of biological systems.

This enables them to manipulate enzymes, proteins, carbohydrates, small molecules and DNA of agronomic, environmental and industrial importance. They aim to understand biological processes at the molecular and atomic levels, and to use this knowledge to address a wide range of problems that concern macromolecules and their interactions.

For example they are investigating;

  • Protein-protein and protein-RNA interactions in plant viruses, and are harnessing this knowledge for the development of plant virus-based vectors for vaccine production
  • Molecular interactions at the host-pathogen interface to develop an understanding of the molecular mechanisms of how diseases develop in plants (pathogenesis). This research is part of a collaboration with The Sainsbury Laboratory
  • The biosynthesis, mechanism of action and their discovery antibiotics
  • A growing interest among the department is the chemistry and biochemistry of plant and microbial natural products, in particular their potential as antibiotics and as anti-cancer agents
  • Carbohydrates, involving enzymology and the development and exploitation of chemical tools to address questions in plant and microbial carbohydrate metabolism
  • The molecular basis of plant-microbe interactions and the role of metals, such as iron, in plants and microbes

To underpin their research they have developed state-of-the-art platform technologies that include crystallography, proteomics, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy and other biochemical and biophysical techniques.