A chemical engineer with five years of industrial experience, Professor Taj Keshavarz received his MSc and PhD in Biochemical Engineering (Stability of degradative plasmids in continuous culture) from University College, London where he continued research as a Postdoctoral Fellow in a DTI LINK project involving collaboration of three universities and seven industries. He joined the University of Westminster in 1985.
Over the last 20 years he has had interests in a variety of research areas including microbial physiology and molecular biology, fermentation technology and bioreactor design, free and immobilised cell culture, production and overproduction of antimicrobial agents and variety of enzymes working with bacteria and fungi:
Free and immobilised cell cultures: Investigation of scale-up potential for immobilised cells using variety of fermenter designs up to 400 L air-lift reactor, working with model modified bacteria and fungi; design of an in-house bead-maker for fast and consistent hydrogel beads.
Stability of Degradative plasmids: Use of microbes as vehicles for degradation of xenobiotics exploiting large plasmids in batch and continuous culture.
Antimicrobial and antitumor agents:
- Overproduction of swainsonine as an antitumor agent produced by Metarhizium anisopliae in batch and fed-batch cultures, exploring fermenter design.
- The use of wood extractives as antimicrobial agents. (EU grant, )
Use of Enzymes in pulp and paper industry: Investigation of the potential of lipases and esterases for reduction of pitch during the processing of pulp and paper to on and reduce pollution and improve the quality of paper. (EU grant. )
Use of Enzymes in leather industry: Investigating a cocktail of enzymes usable in the leather industry to replace/reduce usage of chemicals in leather process. (European grant)
Current Research / Ongoing Projects
Elicitation in microbial cultures: The process of elicitation is a mature topic explored in plant cell culture over the last thirty years. However, elicitation in bacterial cultures was first investigated by our team, first using fungal and recently bacterial cell cultures. We have shown the impact of biotic elicitors in enhancement of antibiotics and enzymes concomitant to the morphological changes in fungi and bacteria. Recently, our team has shown evidence for the elicitation mechanism at molecular level. These investigations have significant potential for the bio-industry and have been supported by Pfizer ltd.
Quorum sensing: Exploring microbial communications is a recent interest of the team supported by the European Commission and Pfizer. While many groups are involved in bacterial (and yeast) quorum sensing mechanisms for medical exploitation, our team is pioneering fungal quorum sensing for exploitation in industry using filamentous fungi. (EU grant)
Production and application of oxidative enzymes: There is an increasing awareness about the role of laccases in reducing environmental pollution. As part of a large European consortium (26 partners from academic, research and industrial sectors) the team is actively working on increased production, purification and application of laccases from basidiomycetes for use in the dye polluted wastewater from textile leather industries. (EU grant))
Scale-down: While scale-up to pilot scale is a routine process in our fermentation suite, efforts are being made through in-house designed mini-bioreactors to explore the reasons for variations in microbial behaviour at different scales. This novel investigation is supported by a combination of grants from the EU and the industry.
- Ongoing Projects"SOPHIED" "Novel Sustainable Bioprocesses For European Colour Industries". Funded by European Commission.
- "Nanoimprint" "Nanoimprinting technologies for selective recognition and separation". Funded by European Commission.
- "Quorum" Discovering Quorum Sensing in industrially useful fungi, a novel approach at molecular level for scaling-up in White Biotechnology. Funded by European Commission.
- Elicitation of bacterial cultures. Funded by Pfizer ltd.
- Quorum sensing, an investigation into the fungal behaviour. Funded by Pfizer ltd.