B.Sc. (McGill), Ph.D. (UBC), Post-doc., KTH, Stockholm Sweden
and BioZone — Centre for Applied Bioscience and Bioengineering
Canadian Society of Microbiologists
American Society for Microbiology
Biocatalytic synthesis of bio-based materials and chemicals
Plants sustainably synthesize the most abundant and among the most diverse biopolymers and biochemicals on Earth. By applying recent advances in life sciences (e.g. genomics, high-throughput functional screens, protein design), we are developing microbial enzymes and non-catalytic proteins that fine-tune the chemical, physical and morphological properties of main plant fibre components, namely cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignins. In this way, our aim is to focus the exquisite selectivity of biocatalysts on upgrading renewable biopolymers for broader use in resource-efficient and high-value material applications. Our approach to developing high-value products from renewable bioresources benefits from three key advantages of biocatalytic reactions, 1) high specificity that is critical to controlled modification of complex starting materials, 2) mild reaction requirements that retain valuable properties of starting plant materials (e.g. degree of polymerization), and 3) ready “programmability” of biocatalysts through protein engineering, to optimize reaction efficiency and specificity.
The biotechnologies and bio-based products developed through our research supports the establishment of circular bio-based economies that reduce our reliance on fossil fuels while creating new opportunities for forest and agricultural sectors that support many small communities across our country.