Biochemical Engineering


Professor John Ward

Professor of Synthetic Biology for Bioprocessing

PGR (MRes) Admissions, Deputy Head (Mission)

Professor John Ward
  • Research Fellow, Department of Bacteriology, University of Bristol, 1979-1980
  • Research Fellow, Department of Biochemistry and Applied Molecular Biology, UMIST, 1981-1983
  • Lecturer, Department of Biochemistry, UCL, 1983-1992
  • Senior Lecturer, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UCL, 1992-2003
  • Reader, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UCL, 2003-2006
  • Professor of Molecular Microbiology, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UCL, 2006-2012
  • Professor of Synthetic Biology for Bioprocessing, Department of Biochemical Engineering, UCL, 2012-present.
  • 2012-present, UK representative to COST
  • 2010 IChemE Innovation and Excellence Award
  • 2010 Rita & John Cornforth Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • 2010-present, pool member BBSRC Committee B 
  • 2007-present, member of the Society for Applied Microbiology
  • 2005-present, member of Centre of Excellence in Biocatalysis, Biotransformation and Biomanufacturing (CoEBio3)
  • 2004-2007 member of the Pro-Bio Faraday Partnership
  • 1986-present, member of the Biochemical Society
  • 1983-present, member of the American Society of Microbiology
  • 1982-present, member of the Society for General Microbiology

Prof John Ward


Room 6.09, Bernard Katz building
The Advanced Centre for Biochemical Engineeering
Department of Biochemical Engineering, UCL


  • Professor of Synthetic Biology for Bioprocessing
    Dept of Biochemical Engineering
    Faculty of Engineering Science

Joined UCL


John Ward’s research interests are in the use of bacteria their enzymes and phages to develop new chemicals, pathways and active entities for applications in synthetic biology, biocatalysis and host cell engineering for bioprocessing.John has developed the molecular biology and biochemistry to access many enzymes for biocatalysis for the Bioconversion-Chemistry-Engineering (BiCE) programme, these enzymes include dioxygenases, transketolase, Baeyer-Villiger mono-oxygenases, cytochrome P450's, transaminases and synthetic plant enzymes such as norcoclaurine synthase. The aim, within the BiCE programme is to produce robust biocatalysts and to have many examples of each enzyme type available in our ‘toolbox’ to enable the rapid development of new biocatalytic steps and pathways. The programme brings together a group of researchers from UCL with a long history of collaborative research including Prof Helen Hailes (Chemistry, UCL) together with Prof Paul Dalby, Prof Gary Lye, Dr Frank Baganz, Dr Martina Micheletti, Dr. Darren Nesbeth and Dr Nicolas Szita.  It is supported by a group of 13 leading national and international companies who comprise the BiCE Industrial Steering Group.  In addition, with Prof Helen Hailes in the Department of Chemistry, John is developing the de novo construction of biosynthetic pathways for chiral molecules such as plant alkaloids and recently has discovered antimicrobial activities in novel compounds from this alkaloid project. John is using metagenomics which is a non culturing method of accessing novel enzymes and pathways from the microbiomes of various environments such as the human tongue with Prof Brian Henderson. John collaborates with Prof Christine Orengo (SMB, UCL) who provides the bioinformatics support for the metagenomics projects.The hunt for novel enzymes extends to collaborations in Astrobiology with Dr Ian Crawford and Prof Peter Muller, and the UCL Origin of Life Reactor a Leverhulme Trust funded project with Dr Nick Lane and Dr Julian Evans.   The future inputs for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry need to move from non-renewable petrochemicals to sustainable materials such as plant biomass. The whole bioprocess from the physical, enzymic and chemical treatment to separate the biopolymers such as cellulose, hemicelluolose, pectin and protein through to the depolymerisation of the key polymers and the use of synthetic biology to create engineered pathways to make high value products is being tackled. John is the lead in Synbion, one of the UK’s Networks in Synthetic Biology

Award year Qualification Institution
1981 PhD
Doctor of Philosophy
University of Bristol
1976 BSc Hons
Bachelor of Science (Honours)
University of Bristol

I studied Biochemistry at the University of Bristol and graduated in 1975. I moved departments and joined the Department of Bacteriology to carry out research for my PhD on antibiotic resistance plasmids and transposable elements using the newly discovered restriction enzymes. After gaining my doctorate in 1981 I moved to UMIST in Manchester to a postdoctoral position on Pseudomonas catabolic plasmids. In 1983 I moved to the Biochemistry Department at UCL and started the MSc in Applied Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. I ran the MSc course for 17 years and in 2001 took over as programme tutor for the BSc in Biotechnology. I was appointed Professor of Molecular Microbiology in 2006.

In 2010 I started the MRes in Synthetic Biology and in 2012 I moved to the Department of Biochemical Engineering as Professor of Synthetic Biology for Bioprocessing.


Antibiotic resistance|*|Astrobiology|*|Bacterial/host interactions|*|Bacteriophage|*|Bayer-Villiger monooxygenase|*|Biocatalysis|*|Biomaterials|*|Bionanotechnology|*|Commensal organisms|*|Cytochrome P450|*|Electrophoresis techniques|*|Enzyme assays|*|Gene therapy|*|Healthy gut bacteria|*|Healthy oral bacteria|*|Infection|*|Infectious disease|*|Inflammation|*|Innate Immunity|*|Metagenomics|*|Mobile genetic element|*|Molecular Biology|*|Molecular Microbiology|*|Nanotechnology|*|Oral microbiology|*|Oral mucosal disease|*|Phage display|*|Pichia pastoris expression|*|Recombinant antibody|*|Staphylococcus aureus|*|Synthetic Biology|*|Transaminase|*|Transketolase|*|Tuberculosis

Teaching and Training Activities

John’s current teaching activities are as the programme tutor for the MRes in Synthetic Biology which he set up in 2010. The MRes course builds on the range of research in synthetic biology across UCL and has contributions from members of the Chemistry, Mathematics, Structural and Molecular Biology and Cell and Developmental Biology departments as well as Synthace and an external patent agent.

John also teaches on undergraduate courses in the department on aspects of molecular biology, expression and synthetic biology.