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About me

My expertise is in microbial biotechnology, natural biomaterials and their biomedical applications. My undergraduate degree is in Chemistry (St. Stephen's College, Delhi University, India) and MSc degree is in Biotechnology (Jawaharlal Nehru University, India). In both institutions I was ranked first in the University. I was awarded the prestigious Inlaks Scholarship and the Overseas Research Students Award to study for my Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge. During my time at Cambridge I was awarded the Churchill College Scholarship, the Lundgren Scholarship, Leche Trust Scholarship and the Cambridge University Philosophical Society Fellowship Award. I obtained my Ph.D. at the Department of Biochemistry, where I studied a B12-dependent enzyme, methylmalonyl-CoA mutase under the supervision of Professor Peter Leadlay FRS. My postdoctoral work was at the University of Minnesota, USA, at the Bioprocess Technology Institute, where I worked on fatty acid biosynthesis. I taught at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India, for four years as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology. During this time I worked actively on the production of biodegradable polymers from Streptomyces. 

I have been at the University of Westminster since 2000 and lead the Applied Biotechnology Research Group. I have published over 100 papers in high impact factor journals such as Biomaterials, Biomacromolecules, Journal of Royal Society Interface and presented my work at numerous international conferences. My group is currently focussed on the production of novel polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), a group of FDA-approved natural polymers and their characterisation. We have pioneered the production of PHAs from Gram positive bacteria which lack immunogenic properties and hence are excellent materials for medical applications. In addition, my group is involved in the application of PHAs in the area of hard tissue engineering (bone), soft tissue engineering (cardiac, nerve), wound healing and drug delivery. 

I am an editor of the Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology (JCTB), International Journal of Tissue Engineering and was the special editor of an In Focus Issue of JCTB on Biodegradable polymers. I am on the BBSRC, NSERC, Canada, FWF, Austria and NSFC, China, ESF, MUIR grant-reviewing panels and am the Vice Chair, Biotechnology section, SCI, London, UK. My work has been funded by the EPSRC (EP/C515617) EU (SOPHIED, QUORUM), DuPont and WESTFOCUS, London. I am a member of the BHF Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine Centre led by Imperial College London that recently received £2.5 million funding.

Awards, scholarships, professional recognition

  • Best Chemistry Undergraduate Student Award, St. Stephen's College, 1984, 1985, 1986
  • Professor Seshadri Prize for being the best candidate in the BSc (Hons) Chemistry, University of Delhi, 1986
  • Best Biotechnology Masters Student Award, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 1988
  • Overseas Research Studentship from the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, UK, 1989-1991
  • The Inlaks Scholarship, India, for doctoral studies at Cambridge, 1989-1990
  • Churchill College Scholarship, University of Cambridge, UK, 1991
  • Lundgren Scholarship, University of Cambridge, UK, 1992
  • Leche Trust Scholarship, London, UK, 1992
  • Cambridge University Philosophical Society Fellowship Award, Cambridge, UK, 1992
  • Nominated member of the New York Academy of Sciences in recognition of research activities, 1997

Grants awarded

  • EU H2020, HyMedPoly (ITN/EID Application): Drug-Free Antibacterial Hybrid Biopolymers for Medical Applications Jan 2015-Dec 2017, Total Grant Amount: 3,500,000 Euros; University of Westminster share: 1,093,152 Euros (£866,094.) This is for an Academic-Industry collaborative PhD multi-institution training network. Role in the project: Scientific Coordinator Partners involved: LUCIDEON Ltd, UK; Politecnico di Torino, Italy; Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany; Vornia Limited, Ireland; University of Southampton, UK;Universitätsklinikum Knappschaftskrankenhaus Bochum, Germany; Tekniker, Spain; Eurescom, Germany; Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Germany. 
  • EU FP7 NMP: Reinforced Bioresorbable Biomaterials for Therapeutic Drug Eluting Stents (ReBioStent), Jan 2013- Dec 2016, Total Grant: 4.6 million Euros, University of Westminster share, 548,473.00 Euros (£434,515) Role in the project: Scientific Coordinator Partners involved: LUCIDEON Ltd, UK; Politecnico di Torino, Italy; Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany; Vornia Limited, Ireland; University of Southampton, UK; Universitätsklinikum Knappschaftskrankenhaus Bochum, Germany; Foundacion Tekniker, Spain; Eurescom, Germany; Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Germany, Arterius Limited, UK; Life and Device SRL and University of Cambridge, UK. 
  • EU FP7 NMP: Novel combination of biopolymers and manufacturing technologies for production of a peripheral nerve implant containing an internal aligned channels array (NEURIMP), Jan 2014- Dec 2017, Total Grant: 4.4 million Euros, University of Westminster share, 504,053 Euros (£396,986) Role in the project: Work Package Leader Partners involved: Vornia Limited, Ireland; Foundacion Tekniker, Spain; Histocell, Spain ; Contipro Pharma A.S., Czech Republic; University of Sheffield, UK; Hospital Nacional Paraplejicos de Toledo, Spain; Qserve® Consultancy B.V., Netherlands. 
  • Co-I in The British Heart Foundation Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine Centre Grant, 2013-2016 PI: Professor Sian Harding , Imperial College London, UK, £2.5 million Partners involved: Others at Imperial College: Michael Schneider, Stuart Cook, Amanda Fisher, Jesus Gil, Cesare Terracciano, Julia Gorelik, Alex Lyon, Nadia Rosenthal, Molly Stevens and Mark Mercola University of Nottingham, UK: Chris Denning University of Glasgow, UK: Godfrey Smith UKE Hamburg, Germany: Thomas Eschenhagen. 
  • Co-I in Project Title: Self-lubricating Polymer-based Artificial Cartilage Replacement (SPACER), 10th Call of the NIHR i4i Product Development Award 2016-2018 (Passed first stage) Total Budget: My Budget: £299,998 Partners involved: University of Southampton, UK: Martin Brown (PI) Aurora Medical (Industry): Andy Taylor and Anne Roques. 
  • PI for Internship Funding from Saudi Aramco (one of the largest oil companies), 2013-2015, £25,000. The EUMINAfab grant for visiting and carrying out research in TEKNIKER Technology Centre, Spain, 2012. EUMINAfab is a European Research Infrastructure offering open access to state of the art of multimaterial micro and nanotechnologies repertoire, £2000
  • European Social Fund within the Kracow University of Technology development program-top quality teaching for the prospective Polish engineers; University of the 21st century. One of the main goals of the project was to increase the competence of didactic staff by organising training in the European leading Centres. Funded the visit of Dr. Katarzyna Gorazda from Kracow University of Technology, Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Technology, Kracow, Poland from May 2012-August 2012, £4000.
  • A PARK fund for a further step forward towards the commercialisation of a unique drug delivery technology for wet macular degeneration from WESTFOCUS, 2010, London, UK, £50,068
  • A Bacillus based biorefinery for production of biodegradable biopolymers using agricultural residue, 2009, a research development fund, supported by the by University of Westminster, UK, £15,000
  • A PARK fund for patent application from WESTFOCUS, London, UK, 2009 £15,000
  • Eluting biodegradable ocular lens, 2009 – A Commercial Appraisal Fund from WESTFOCUS, London, UK, £1500
  • Polyhydroxyalkanoate microsphere-based intraocular drug delivery for wet macular degeneration, 2008, supported by WESTMARC, University of Westminster, UK, £2000
  • The Production and Characterisation of MCL-Polyhydroxyalkanoates for Biomedical Applications, 2007, supported by the University of Westminster, UK, £15,000
  • “QUORUM” with Prof. T. Keshavarz (PI) supported by EC/ FP6: Proposal no. 032811, 2006-2009, Title: Discovering Quorum Sensing in industrially useful Fungi, a novel approach at molecular level for scaling-up in white biotech. £250,000
  • Novel PHA/Bioglass composites for soft-tissue and hard-tissue engineering scaffolds, 2004-2006, supported by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council, UK (EPSRC), £110,000
  • “SOPHIED” with Prof. T. Keshavarz (PI) supported by EC/FP6: Proposal no. 505899-2, 2004-2008, Title: Novel sustainable bioprocesses for the European colour industries. £299,200
  • Microbial production of Polyhydroxyalkanoates, 2000-2002, New lecturer’s Grant supported by the University of Westminster, UK, £30,000. 
  • Polyhydroxyalkanoate biosynthesis in Strepomyces sp., 1997-1998, University Exploratory Grant supported by DuPont, Delaware, USA, £2000 Total Funding obtained: £5.3 million

Teaching

My teaching career began at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India where I taught biochemistry and molecular biology to students enrolled for an MEng degree in Biochemical Engineering. I developed many new modules including Molecular Biology for Engineers; Biochemistry; Advanced Techniques in Biochemical Engineering; Protein Engineering and Current Topics in Biotechnology.

After joining the University in 2000 I was appointed as the Course Leader for BSc Biochemistry. In 2002 I was appointed the Course Leader for BSc Biotechnology in Medicine and later that of BSc Biotechnology. In 2008, I was appointed the Course Leader for MSc Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. In the past few years that I have run the course we have recruited well and the quality of the students have also been very good. I have now initiated a Year Abroad Program in partnership with the Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), India, where students will join MSc Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology after completion of their first year of a two year Master's program in Applied Microbiology or Biotechnology at VIT.

I am currently Module Leader for Introduction to Biochemical Engineering; Biological and Organic Chemistry and Current topics in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

I am external examiner for the Intercalated BSc Programme on Regenerative Medicine and Innovation Technology at King's College, London.

I enjoy teaching thoroughly and feel that this aspect of my role at the university helps nurture and train the future generation, indeed a great responsibility. Hence, I feel it is essential to deliver this to the best of my abilities.

Research

Current Research

My group is currently focussed on the production of natural polymers of bacterial origin including polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), bacterial cellulose and -Polyglutamic acid, with a particular emphasis on PHAs.

Polyhydroxyalkanoates are a group of FDA-approved natural polymers that are biodegradable and biocompatible. These can be used for both bulk applications and medical applications. In my group we have investigated the medical applications of these polymers. We have pioneered the production of PHAs from Gram positive bacteria which lack immunogenic properties and hence are excellent materials for medical applications. There are two types of PHAs, SCL-PHAs (monomer length C4-C5), generally brittle in nature and MCL-PHAs (monomer length C6-C16), elastomeric in nature. The two main organisms that we produce for the production of these polymers are, Bacillus cereus SPV (for SCL-PHAs) and Pseudomonas mendocina (for MCL-PHAs).

We are currently investigating the application of PHAs in the area of bone tissue engineering, cardiac and nerve tissue engineering, wound healing and controlled drug delivery. In the area of bone tissue engineering we have developed Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate, P(3HB) composites with Bioglass®, carbon nanotubes, bacterial cellulose and magnetic nanoparticles. These have been characterised extensively for their material properties, degradability and biocompatibility. For cardiac tissue engineering applications we have developed Poly(3-hydroxyoctanoate), P(3HO) patches with added growth factors, i.e., Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) and peptides (RGD peptides). In addition, these patches have been coated with P(3HO) fibres, leading to essential surface topography, enhancing biocompatibility. I am now part of a BHF Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine Centre led by Professor Sian Harding at Imperial College London, where P(3HO) and other PHAs will be explored for the development of cardiac patches to support stem cell growth and differentiation in to cardiac muscle. For wound healing applications two types of patches have been created, compressed films containing P(3HB) microspheres with encapsulated tetracycline; P(3HO) films with nanoBioglass. The former exhibited excelled controlled delivery of tetracycline and biocompatibility and the latter has potential haemostatic properties.

Finally, in the area of controlled delivery we have explored the use of P(3HB) microspheres for the delivery of small molecules such as gentamycin and proteins including bovine serum albumin. In both cases highly controlled long term delivery has been achieved. Another major application for PHAs being investigated in my group are drug eluting biodegradable stents. We have explored the use of P(3HO)/bacterial cellulose composites and P(3HB)/P(3HO) blends for the development of such stents. Preliminary stent prototypes have been produced using P(3HB)/P(HO) blends.

I collaborate with a large number of groups including those led by Professor Aldo Boccaccini (University of Erlangen, Germany); Professor Sian Harding (Imperial College London); Professor Jonathan Knowles (University College London); Professor Mohan Edirisinghe (University College London); Dr. Sanjukta Deb (King College London); Professor Ruth Cameron (University of Cambridge); Professor Serena Best (University of Cambridge); Dr. Iban Quintana (Tekniker, Spain). Within the University of Westminster I collaborate with Professor Tajalli Keshavarz; Dr. Ian Locke; Dr. Mike Gordge and Dr. Caroline Smith.

Publications

For details of all my research outputs, visit my WestminsterResearch profile.