Dr Robert Falconer
Reader in Biological Engineering
Bioengineering Board of Studies Co-ordinator
T: +44 (0)114 222 8253
F: +44 (0)114 222 7501
As a postgraduate I worked at the biotechnology companies Biotech Australia and GroPep working on expression and purification of recombinant proteins, process design and quality management. I went on to graduate with a PhD in process design from the Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Adelaide in South Australia. I returned to the business sector working in production management at Diagnostic Systems Laboratories in Texas and Tuta Healthcare in Sydney (medical diagnostics and medical device manufacturers, respectively).
In 2003 I accepted a position as research coordinator at the Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Cambridge where I undertook research on protein refolding and virus-like particle self-assembly unit operations. Whilst at Cambridge I also worked on introducing automated colour sorting to the wine industry undertaking trials at Central Valley, California and later at Coldstream Hills Winery in Victoria, Australia
In 2007 I moved to the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) at the University of Queensland, undertaking research on protein stability and protein-small molecule interactions using micro-calorimetry and a range of spectroscopy techniques. I collaborated with the Australian Wine Research Institute studying protein instability in white wines and astringency in red wines.
In 2011 I was appointed as a senior lecturer by the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering at the University of Sheffield. I have continued my research on protein stability with the aim of supporting the biopharmaceutical industry create formulations for therapeutic proteins. This research has broadened to include industrial enzyme application to animal feed, phosphate recovery and brewing. Recently my group has started to apply the knowledge on protein stability and from the wine industry to brewing with the goal of understanding protein haze formation in beer, the enzymology of mashing and the evolution of flavours during the brewing process.
My current research fits into three broad areas:
- Protein stability and formulation. This is aimed at supporting the biopharmaceutical industry in achieving stable therapeutic protein formulations. The project uses terahertz spectroscopy, dynamic light scattering (DLS) and calorimetry techniques like differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) and pressure perturbation calorimetry (PPC) to provided fresh insight into the interaction between water and cosolutes. The goal is to create a predictive program called “Rational Design of Aqueous Formulations” for the design of liquid protein formulations with a high probability of achieving a long shelf-life.
- Beverage manufacture. The research into astringency of red wines is ongoing with work on the interaction between tannins and proteins. We are now working on the brewing of beers and ales combining state of the art mass spectroscopy with sensory evaluation and small scale brewing to study the development of brewing styles through the ages.
- Food Futures. In collaboration with soil scientists at the University of Sheffield we will be studying the phosphorus cycle in detail focussing on the fate of phosphorus-rich phytate as it proceeds from grain, through the digestive tract of animals and onto soil. Release of phosphorus from phytate is a major bottleneck in utilising this critical resource. We are also developing an organic fertilizer rich in utilisable phosphorus.
My interests are;
- Protein stability and formulation
- Interaction between proteins, water and small molecules
- Spectroscopy technology especially Terahertz time domain and far-infrared spectroscopy
- Beverage manufacturing
- CPE3004 Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing
- CPE317 Manufacturing – Process and Facility Design
- CPE6006 Principles of Biochemical Engineering