Dr Zoltán Kis

School of Chemical, Materials and Biological Engineering

Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor)

Dr Zoltán Kis smiles as he stands in the Engineering Heartspace
Profile picture of Dr Zoltán Kis smiles as he stands in the Engineering Heartspace
z.kis@sheffield.ac.uk

Full contact details

Dr Zoltán Kis
School of Chemical, Materials and Biological Engineering
G58
Sir Robert Hadfield Building
Mappin Street
Sheffield
S1 3JD
Profile

Dr. Zoltán Kis is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Sheffield, and an Honorary Lecturer at the Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London.

Zoltán is leading a multidisciplinary team that is innovating and digitalising RNA vaccine and therapeutics production platform technologies. His work is addressing the challenges of producing large volumes of RNA-based vaccines and therapeutics, rapidly, at high quality and at low cost in a disease-agnostic manner.

He is regularly invited to speak at scientific and industry conferences, and to advise policy experts, non-governmental organisations and companies. For example, he was consulted for techno-economic modelling by the WHO mRNA Technology Transfer Hub, and he sits on the Sanofi mRNA CMC Advisory Board as well as the Pfizer mRNA technology Advisory Board.

Zoltán’s work on RNA vaccine manufacturing and production process modelling received high-profile media coverage in the UK and internationally e.g. on BBC World News, BBC Radio (4,5 and World Series), Sky News, RTL TV, China Central Television (CCTV), Nature News, The Lancet, BMJ, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The New York Times and many more.

Zoltán obtained his Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Imperial College London, UK, holds an M.Sc. in Applied Biotechnology and a B.Eng. in Chemical with Biochemical Engineering.

Work experience

2024 – Present

Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor), Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Sheffield

2021 – Present

Honorary Lecturer, Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London, UK

2021 - 2023

Lecturer (Assistant Professor), Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Sheffield

2018 – 2021

Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the Future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub, Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London, UK

2015 – 2018

Post-Doctoral Research Associate in resource flow modelling, techno-economic modelling for environmental sustainability assessment, Institute for Integrated Economic Research, London, UK.

Research interests

Research

Our exciting research combines experimental and modelling techniques, and innovates RNA vaccine & therapeutics production platform processes. The platform processes that we are developing will enable the rapid development and mass-manufacturing of RNA vaccines and therapeutics at high volumes, low cost and high quality against a wide range of diseases. To achieve this ambitious goal, we are developing and synergising a set of physical and digital technologies integrated into the Quality by Digital Design framework, and based on techno-economic considerations. The obtained computer models will link RNA product quality to the production process, and will enhance both the development and operation of RNA manufacturing processes.

The RNA vaccine platform technology has been successfully used to develop COVID-19 vaccines at record speeds. However, the RNA vaccine production volumes and rates can be further increased, while reducing costs and maintaining consistently high product quality. In addition, RNA vaccines can be produced based on a transformative platform technology, meaning that the same manufacturing infrastructure can be used to produce vaccines and therapeutics against a wide range of diseases. Therefore, it is anticipated that the demand for RNA vaccine production technologies will substantially increase and the physical processes and digital tools developed in our group are expected to be widely adopted.

Key research areas include:

  • Experimental mRNA vaccine and RNA therapeutics manufacturing process development: process intensification, continuous manufacturing and scale-up.
  • Development and optimisation of continuous in vitro transcription (IVT) reaction for mRNA synthesis, continuous mRNA downstream purification processes based on continuous chromatography and tangential flow filtration unit operations, as well as continuous LNP formulation unit operations.
  • Development of new unit operations and design of process equipment for mRNA manufacturing.
  • Process digitalisation: development of soft sensors and digital twins to monitor and control the manufacturing of RNA vaccines, RNA therapeutics and other biopharmaceuticals.
  • Techno-economic modelling for reducing the costs, increasing production rates and increasing production volumes of RNA vaccines, RNA therapeutics and other biopharmaceuticals.
  • Quality by Digital Design for consistently ensuring product quality, support scale-up, technology transfer, and for accelerating the regulatory approval process.

Recruitment

We are eager to support talented individuals who are passionate about biomanufacturing, production process development, process analytical technologies, RNA vaccines and therapeutics, as well as process modelling, digitalisation, machine learning and Industry 4.0.

Prospective PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and research fellows are encouraged to send me a brief expression of interest (e.g. up to 1 page) along with their CV.

Publications

Journal articles

Chapters

Preprints

Research group

For the latest info on our research and team, please visit our research team website.

Grants

Date

Funder

Role

Title

Funding amount

May 2024 – 

May 2026

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). BB/Y007514/1. Engineering Biology, Mission Awards.

Co-Investigator

Electrospun mucoadhesive matrices for polymersome-mediated mRNA vaccine delivery

£1.72 million

Oct 2023 –

Oct 2025

Innovate UK.

Principal Investigator

Automated and digitalised RNA process-in-a-box for rapid outbreak-responsedisease-agnostic RNA vaccine/therapeutic development and manufacturing athigh-quality and low cost

£2 million

Nov 2023

Nov 2028

UK Department of Health and Social Care and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Co-Investigator

UK-south-east Asia-vaccine manufacturing research hub

£7.6 million

7 June 2023

BBSRC

Co-Investigator

NanoAnalyzer: An emerging technology to analyse life at the nanoscale

£242,400

20 October 2022.

BBSRC Doctoral Training (CDT/DTC/DTP).

Co-Supervisor

iCASE PhD studentship with AstraZeneca Plc

£84,000

March 2022.

ESPRC Doctoral Training Partnership

Co-Supervisor

iCASE PhD studentship with RedShift BioAnalytics, Inc.

£130,200

Dec 2021 –

Jul 2022

United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI), Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF)

Co-Investigator

Innovating the process of RNA vaccine and therapeutic manufacturing – building external partnerships and exploring commercialisation opportunities

£74,331

Dec 2021 –

Oct 2024

Wellcome Leap RNA Readiness + Response (R3)

Principal Investigator

Digitalised, small-scale and high-throughput process for distributed and automated RNA production for therapy and pandemic preparedness.

Multi-million USD (confidential)

2020-2022

UKRI, EPSRC, EP/V01479X/1

Co-applicant

Meeting the UK demand for COVID19/SARS-CoV-2 vaccines via integrated manufacturing and supply chain optimisation

£448,148

2020-2022

Wellcome Innovator Award

Co-applicant

A pathway to a live-attenuated whole parasite malaria vaccine.

£727,458

2020-2021

Kidney Research UK. Paediatric Innovation Grant Award

Co-Investigator

Cell catcher: developing a new method for cell isolation and preservation from urine samples of Bardet-Biedl Syndrome patients

£40,000

Teaching activities
  • I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and I am passionate about teaching and training the next generation of chemical and biological engineers.
  • I have been invited and delivered teaching on mRNA vaccine and therapeutic manufacturing at the BBSRC-funded Bioprocessing Entrepreneurial Skills Training (BEST) programme and delivered training on the same topic to companies such as ChromaTan and ThermoFisher Scientific.
  • I am supervising and co-supervising the PhD projects in the field of mRNA production, purification, formulation and analysis in our research team.

Module code and title

Role

Academic Years

Level & Course*

Topic & Aims

CPE336, CPE6043

Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing

Module Leader & Lecturer

2023-24 to Present

3rd Year UG & M.Sc.

Provide an understanding of the key unit operations used in manufacturing biopharmaceuticals (including vaccines, therapeutic proteins, cell/gene therapies, mRNA vaccines and therapeutics). Introduce key topics such as process engineering, continuous biomanufacturing, analytical technologies, Quality by Design, and regulatory considerations.

BIE103 Introduction to Bioengineering

Lecturer

2022-23 to Present

1st Year UG

Lecture on vaccine manufacturing. Teach about vaccine types, conventional vaccine manufacturing processes and mRNA platform-based vaccine manufacturing.

CPE440 MEng research projects

Supervisor

2021-22 to Present

4th Year UG

Supervise research projects on techno-economic modelling, and quality by design bioprocess modelling of RNA vaccine manufacturing.

CPE6010, CPE6011, CPE6029, CPE6390 Research Project

Supervisor

2021-22 to Present

M.Sc.

Supervise research projects on techno-economic modelling and on assessing the environmental footprint and energy requirements of RNA vaccine manufacturing, fill-finish, distribution and administration.

CPE260 Experimental Investigation

Module Leader & Lecturer

2021-22

2nd year UG

Teach students to apply statistics to design experiments (using factorial design of experiments, DoE), analyse results from experiments and deal with uncertainty associated with real-world data. This module has a large experimental component performed at the Diamond Pilot Plant.

Year in Industry Student Placement

Placement tutor

2022-23 to Present

UG

Monitoring and assessing the progress of students while on placement at companies. Checking that the work of students aligns with

UK-SPEC competencies.

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) & Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE)

Supervisor

2021-22 to Present

UG

Supervise and co-supervise chemical engineering undergraduate students on lab-based experimental and modelling research summer projects.

* UG – undergraduate, M.Sc. – Master of Science.