James’s research focuses on triterpenoids, an important class of plant natural products with a broad range of bioactive properties.
Triterpenes found in nature have huge pharmaceutical potential ranging from cancer therapies to vaccines, however they are often produced at very low quantities in plants, which frequently preventing this potential from being realised.
James works on understanding the enzymes responsible for triterpene biosynthesis in the plant kingdom and applying this knowledge for engineering triterpene production in other host systems. He uses a transient expression-based production platform allowing controlled production of compounds of interest in Nicotiana benthamiana. These compounds can be purified and systematically tested for their bioactive properties.