In 2010, the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry at U of T introduced BioZone, an innovative multidisciplinary research centre that uses advanced biotechnology to address urgent society needs in energy, environment, and health. For over 20 years, the centre has been creating revolutionary science and technology, as well as training the next generation of bioengineering leaders including Christian Euler (ChemE PhD 2T2) and Yilan Liu.
In January 2023, Christian and Yilan joined the University of Waterloo’s Department of Chemical Engineering as assistant professors. They are now sharing laboratories and creating a facility similar to BioZone.
During Christian’s grad studies at BioZone under the supervision of Professor Krishna Mahadevan, he co-founded Phycus Biotechnologies. Christian joined the University of Waterloo from the start-up world, and has extensive industrial experience and expertise in developing novel microbial platforms for chemical production and scaling these from the benchtop to commercial scale. Drawing on this expertise, Christian and his group in the Laboratory for Anabolic Bioengineering are now working to discover and develop novel microbial pathways to valorize waste products such as CO2, its reduced derivatives, and plastics. To this end, Christian’s industrial work has demonstrated commercial viability of the world’s first bio-based glycolic acid produced from a waste stream.
Yilan joined BioZone as a postdoctoral fellow and was also supervised by Professor Mahadevan. After her postdoc, she continued on as a research associate. Yilan’s Lab for Synthetic Biology and Sustainable Development at the University of Waterloo harnesses synthetic biology to deliver products and services that contribute to sustainable development. Her team is currently focused on developing functional probiotics to supply affordable and preventive health solutions, and engineering bacteria to convert mixed solid waste into useful products.
Both Yilan and Christian are recruiting students and have immediate goals of growing their teams, as well as building collaborations within and between disciplines, and international relationships with leading experts.
“Partnerships have always been key to BioZone’s success. It is through establishing networks that BioZone has been able to facilitate the translation of much of its research into commercial practice,” explains Yilan.
“We are applying the BioZone-model to our labs, as it serves as an exceptional blueprint,” says Christian.
BioZone is known for its interdisciplinary approach towards research, innovative technology, and commitment towards sustainability. The centre is setting a new benchmark for other institutions in the field of chemical engineering, including training the next generation of scientists.