Our facilities

Chemical Engineering at the Life Science Interface

ideasspaceThe ChELSI Institute provides space and facilities to enable chemical engineers and life scientists to collaborate on research in four key sectors: Water, Energy, Biomanufacturing and Medicine.

ChELSI is an interdisciplinary institute founded to enhance interactions between chemical engineers and biologists across strategically important research themes. The Institute was established with a £4.3m EPSRC grant awarded in 2006. This has funded a brand-new, one-thousand square metre building within the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Sheffield.

Our intentions are to revolutionise the way life science research is conducted by adopting approaches from chemical engineering, and to exploit advances in biology to improve engineering processes.

Enabling Technologies

biosamplesChELSI research is founded upon state-of-the-art analytical methods and expertise available within the Institute, and performed in fully-equipped, custom-built molecular and microbiology laboratories. The Mass Spectrometry Facility enables researchers to exploit the power of metabolomics (Dr Seetharaman Vaidyanathan) and proteomics, and is used by Dr Mark Dickman to develop new RNA analytics technologies.

In Systems Biology such data are incorporated into computer models to simulate biological function. Such models are built by Dr Josselin Noirel and Dr Stephen Wilkinson to understand experimental observations and predict how biological systems might be improved with respect to engineering goals. The combination of high-throughput "omics" data with systems modelling permits modern biology to be considered within engineering.

While engineering is dominated by rational design processes, biology solves problems through unguided evolution. Dr Tuck Seng Wong's Directed Evolution group guides selection to evolve novel solutions to bioengineering problems. Any manufacturing process seeks to enhance a product. Understanding how a protein product works - be it an antibody from a CHO cell or a thermophilic protein - is a challenge of biophysics. ChELSI provides a broad range of calorimetric and spectrometric analytical techniques through the laboratory of Dr Robert Falconer.

Together the above technologies power the emerging field of synthetic biology - the wholesale, rational engineering of cells with new, non-natural functions - which will impact all four research themes and beyond. ChELSI is a leading centre for synthetic biology research.

What ChELSI Offers

  • Global collaborations with industrial partners and life science groups
  • Support and training for chemincal engineers and life scientists collaborating on problems spanning the disciplines
  • A central Ideas Space for researchers to meet and host theme days, sandpits and symposia
  • Purpose built laboratories and specialist equipment
  • Leading systems biology techniques: metabolomics, proteomics, informatics and systems modelling
  • Expertise in the emerging field of synthetic biology
  • Masters programmes in Biological & Bioprocessing Engineering and Environmental & Energy Engineering

ChELSI Mass Spectrometry Facility

The Institute hosts a large and well-equipped analytical facility for high throughput 'omic studies, including proteomics, metabolomics and nucleic acid analysis. A range of tandem mass spectrometers is available, including a maXis ultra high resolution ToF instrument and the HCT Ultra PTM Discovery System (Bruker Daltonics). All instruments are interfaced with online nano/capillary high-performance liquid chromatography. In addition a number of HPLC instruments support a wide range of bioseparations including peptides, proteins and nucleic acids. Metabolite data can be acquired on a Thermo Finnigan TRACE DSQ GC-MS system (Thermo Scientific), which combines the high separation efficiency and resolution of capillary GC necessary with the high sensitivity of mass selective detection for complex metabolite profiling.