Lab news

  • Saul has been promoted to Professor of Algal Biotechnology with effect from 1st October 2015.
  • Congratulations to Marco Lizzul for winning 'best oral presentation' at the 5th UK Algae Conference held recently at the University of Glasgow.

Priscilla Rajakumar wins best poster prize at the Algae Around the World symposium
  • Congratulations to Priscilla Rajakumar, who was awarded the prize for best poster (sponsored by the British Phycological Society) at the Algae Around the World symposium in Cambridge. She is pictured here with her poster, which describes her research on Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as an oral vaccine candidate for Infectious Bronchitis virus.
  • Well done to Alice Lui for successfully upgrading to full PhD student status!


Congratulations to Yuliya Dyo who has won a prestigious British Council Travel Grant. This will allow her to continue her collaboration with the Purton group on the production of anti-fungals in algae and their use as biofungicides in the protection of potato.


Many congratulations to Laura Stoffels for passing her PhD viva exam! Laura is now working as a PDRA for Rothamsted Research, based at UCL.

Laura Stoffels with Doctor's hat after PhD viva   Laura Stoffels celebrating after PhD viva

  • We welcome new PhD student, Xenia Spencer-Milnes, to the group. She will optimise tailored lipid production in the microalga Chlorella sorokiniana as part of the BBSRC-funded sLoLa project, Algal Oils by Design.
  • Many congratulations to Stephanie Braun-Galleani for passing her PhD viva exam! Steffi is now working as a postdoctoral research associate in the department of Biochemical Engineering at UCL.
Steffi Braun and PhD thesis   Steffi Braun celebrating passing viva


Congratulations to Saul, who has been appointed as a member of the Council of the British Phycological Society.


We welcome new PhD student, Juliana Ramos, to the group. Juliana will investigate production of endolysins in the chloroplast of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.

  • Many congratulations to Priscilla Rajakumar for being awarded the prize for best poster at the 5th Congress of the International Society for Applied Phycology 2014 in Sydney.

    Best poster prize at ISAP 2014
  • Well done to Umaima Al-Hoqani for successfully upgrading to full PhD student status!

  • Congratulations to Laura Stoffels on being awarded a prestigious PhD Enterprise Scholarship from UCL Advances. The award provides funding of £4,000 for a three-month extension to Laura's PhD to enable her to write a thesis chapter on the commercial evaluation of her research work.
  • Saul has been appointed to the Scientific Advisory Board for the European Project SPLASH (Sustainable Polymers from Algal Sugars and hydrocarbons) - a €14M project with 20 partners aimed at the production of bioplastics from microalgae.

Dr Lamy Al-Haj celebrating after viva

Dr Lamya Al-Haj celebrating after viva Dr Lamya Al-Haj celebrating after viva

Many congratulations to Dr Lamya Al-Haj for passing her PhD viva! Lamya has now returned to Oman to resume her position as lecturer in the Biology Department, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat.


We welcome Marco Larrea as a new PhD student in the group. Marco is funded by a prestigious SENESCYT Scholarship from the Government of Ecuador. His research will focus on the challenging problem of expressing multiple transgenes in the chloroplast genome and metabolic engineering of chloroplast biology.

  • Congratulations to USAR EngD student, Marco Lizzul, who has been awarded a UCL Enterprise Scholarship to evaluate the potential of producing high value algae within the photobioreactor that he has designed.  The award will pay a stipend to extend his doctorate by three months.
  • Many congratulations to Dr. Yanan Xu, who has passed her PhD viva!  Yanan has accepted a postdoctoral research position at Greenwich University.
  • Congratulations to Saul, who, along with Michele Stanley from SAMS, has secured funding for 5 years from the BBSRC (Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy) to create PHYCONET, an industry-focused UK-wide network, enabling biologists, engineers and industrial partners to consolidate their knowledge and expertise to unlock the IB potential of microalgae.
  • Also congratulations to Saul for his 4-year £2.4M BBSRC strategic LoLa award, to establish an Algal Biotechnology Platform for Designer Lipids. Saul and collaborators Johnathan Napier (Rothamsted Research), Oliver Ebenhöh (Aberdeen University) and Alison Smith and Chris Abell (Cambridge University) will engineer novel lipid-producing microalgal strains using synthetic biology approaches, combined with predictive metabolic modeling and high-throughput cell analysis and sorting technology. Linked to the strategic LoLa is the award of a BBSRC Doctoral Training Grant to support 4 four-year PhD studentships in the field of algal biotechnology.

Sofie's viva Sofie's viva  
  • Many congratulations to Sofie for passing her PhD viva! Sofie will be re-joining the lab as a post-doc in January.
  • Saul has been appointed an associate editor for the journal Perspectives in Phycology.
  • Congratulations to Noreen Hiegle, who won the prize for best poster at the Royal Society of Chemistry meeting Sustainable Chemicals from Microalgae: Encompassing Biocrude through to Fine Chemicals.


Double congratulations to Henry Taunt for passing his PhD viva voce examination with flying colours,
and for his appointment as a Research Scientist at the algal biotechnology company, Algenuity.

Cambridge Algae Symposium

Congratulations to Laura Stoffels for winning the prize for best poster (entitled "Synthesis of antimicrobial bacteriophage proteins in microalgae") at the Cambridge Algae Symposium 2013 (right). 


Paul Hellier (Department of Mechanical Engineering, UCL) and Saul Purton have received a £5000 award from UCL's "Sustainable Resources for Sustainable Cities Catalyst Grant" scheme to carry out a combustion assessment of potential biofuels that could be produced from algae.


We welcome Umaima Al-Hoqani as a new PhD student in the Purton group.  Umaima is the recipient of a prestigious award from the Sultanate of Oman's Ministry of Manpower and her project will investigate the expression of foreign genes in the chloroplast of Chlamydomonas and other algae.

  • We welcome two new people to the Purton group.  Alice Lui starts as a PhD student on the new BBSRC DTP scheme, and is doing her first 3 month rotation in our lab. Her project will investigate the metabolic engineering of a cyanobacterium to produce a novel biofuel.  Marta De La Vega is a visiting PhD student from the lab of Rosa Leon at the University of Huelva, Spain funded by an Erasmus Practices Scholarship. She is investigating carotenoid biology in various marine algae.
  • Saul has also agreed to serve on the scientific advisory board of Algenuity – a UK based algal biotech company.

    Joanna's viva celebration
  • Congratulations to Joanna who has successfully defended her PhD thesis, and has started her new job as a Research Scientist at Algenuity.  Well done Dr Szaub!
  • Also, congratulations to Laura who won first prize for her poster in the Experimental Bacteriology category of the UCL Infection, Immunology and Inflammation Domain Symposium.


We welcome Priscilla Rajakumar as a new PhD student in the Purton group.  Priscilla is the recipient of a prestigious award from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission and her project will investigate the production of protein vaccines in the Chlamydomonas chloroplast.


A £5000 SPARK award has been made to Saul Purton and Supreme Biotechnologies Ltd by the Synthetic Biology Special Interest Group (SynBio SIG) of the Technology Strategy Board. The award supports our collaborative research into the use of synthetic biology methods to produce therapeutic proteins in the algal chloroplast.


USAR EngD student Marco Lizzul has won an Industrial Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. The award will provide him with funding to develop his photobioreactor prototype over the next three years. This includes a set of pilot trials within the greenhouse of the Darwin Building, as well as the potential for outdoor trials on the Huxley medical administration building. Marco would like to thank the support received from his supervisors Dr Luiza Campos, Dr Saul Purton, Dr Frank Baganz and industrial sponsor Joe McDonald (Varicon Aqua Solutions), as well as other collaborators to date. The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 offers major awards to scientists and engineers for research, development and design. Its aims are to support education and innovation for the benefit of productive industry.


Saul has been appointed a member of the BBSRC's Pool of Experts.

ABBB poster

The UCL algal research group, Algae@UCL, hosted the Algal Biotechnology: Biofuels and Beyond conference on 13th February.

The conference, aimed to enable researchers to make connections and to exchange ideas with other members of the UK algal research community, was attended by over 130 participants from academia and industry.

The one-day conference consisted of talks by internationally recognised researchers and industrial practitioners based in the UK, all of whom have made and continue to make a strong impact on the algae community. There were also introductory presentations and poster exhibitions showcasing work currently being conducted both by industry and academia.

Please see abstracts for talks and abstracts for posters for further details.


Congratulations to Tanya who completed her PhD thesis and passed her viva voce examination with flying colours!

Tanya's viva celebration with examiners Tanya's viva celebration with presents!
Instant Diagnostics at the Biotechnology YES competition

L-R: Jo, Tom, Lamya, Henry and Laura at the Biotechnology YES final

Many congratulations to Instant Diagnostics for being awarded second place in the Biotechnology YES grand final! Henry (Managing Director), Joanna (Finance Director), Lamya (Marketing Director), Tom (R&D Director) and Laura (Operations Director) won their individual stream of the competition to go head-to-head for the national award. A split vote on the judging panel meant that an executive decision had to be taken by BBSRC Chairman Professor Sir Tom Blundell. The team, who designed a business plan to create a self-testing STI kit, won awards for "best financial planning strategy" and "best healthcare business plan".

Biotechnology YES competition

L-R: Tom, Henry and Jo (back row), Laura and Lamya (front row) celebrate their win at the Biotechnology YES regional competition

Congratulations to Henry, Jo, Lamya, Laura and Tom for winning the Biotechnology YES (Young Entrepreneur Scheme) East of England regional competition for setting up their hypothetical company Instant Diagnostics, and designing a self-testing STI kit. The team also won the prize for “best elevator pitch” and Henry for “best question to a real company pitch”.

  • We welcome Dr Rosie Young to the group. Rosie recently obtained her D.Phil. from the University of Oxford. Her research focussed on the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) biosynthesis pathway in Haemophilus parainfluenzae and how the LPS structures within the outer membrane of the bacterium influence pathogen-host interactions. Rosie will be joining the BBSRC funded "Phycobricks" project - a joint programme between Saul's lab and Alison Smith's in Cambridge, aimed at developing synthetic biology tools and technologies for the metabolic engineering of algae.


Congratulations to Laura for her prize for her oral presentation at the recent "Plastid Preview" conference held at Royal Holloway, University of London.

  • We welcome Dr Tommaso Barbi to the group. Tom did his PhD in molecular immunology and plant biotechnology with Julian Ma at St George's Hospital, and subsequently worked as a research scientist and manager for a plant biotechnology company in Trieste, Italy. He will be joining the FP7 GIAVAP programme aimed at the development of techniques for the genetic improvement of industrially important microalgae.

Graduate School poster competition Ecobuild 2011
  • Marco Lizzul was invited to exhibit an early prototype of his photobioreactor atEcobuild 2011, following selection of the project by a panel from the EPSRC and Technology Strategy Board. Ecobuild is one of the world's biggest exhibitions for sustainable design, construction and the built environment.


Alison Smith and Saul Purton have been awarded a three year grant by the BBSRC to investigate the molecular basis of symbiosis between algae and bacteria.

  • Saul Purton and Alison Smith (Plant Sciences, Cambridge) have been awarded a three year grant by the BBSRC to develop synthetic biology tools for algae and to use these tools to demonstrate the creation of designer algae for biofuel production.
  • We welcome Ben Mackrow to the group. Ben is studying for an MRes in Synthetic Biology and his research project will investigate: i) the development of a new selectable marker for nuclear transformation of Chlamydomonas; ii) the use of advanced cloning techniques to introduce multiple transgenes into cyanobacteria.

A consortium of Israeli and European algal biologists that includes the Purton group have been awarded a €5.6 million grant from the European Union. The project is entitled “Genetic Improvement of Algae for Value Added Products (GIAVAP)”.


Saul Purton has been appointed a Fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society.


We welcome to the group three new PhD students: Laura Stoffels, Stephanie Braun and Yanan (Nancy) Xu.

Laura is funded jointly by UCL and through a UCL IMPACT Scholarship, and her project focuses on the production of therapeutic proteins in the Chlamydomonas chloroplast. Stephanie and Nancy are joint appointments with the lab of Frank Baganz (Biochemical Engineering, UCL). Steffi will be researching the optimisation of recombinant protein production in algae, whilst Nancy will investigate the production and use of algal lipids for biofuels.

Page last modified on 23 jul 12 13:54