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UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering

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UCL Biochemical Engineering is a world leader in bioprocess research creating novel engineering solutions to underpin future biomanufacturing operations across a range of sectors.

The Department is a world leader in bioprocess research creating novel engineering solutions to underpin future biomanufacturing operations across a range of sectors, including biopharmaceuticals, cell and gene therapies, vaccines, bio-manufactured small molecules, bioenergy, biorefining and bioremediation. The interdisciplinary Advanced Centre for Biochemical Engineering (ACBE) coordinates bioprocess research and training across UCL and with numerous external collaborators from academia and industry. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework assessment (REF2014), 90% of our research activity was rated either ‘World-Leading’ or ‘Internationally Excellent’.

ACBE research spans fundamental studies through to their application and impact on clinical and commercial practice. Fundamental research focuses on the characterisation of biological systems and products, and then synthetic biology to engineer biological systems capable of novel, more efficient, and sustainable biomanufacturing options, as well as improvements in the quality of biological products.

Research on high throughput and automated bioprocess design, as well as the development of modelling, simulation and digital methods such as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, focuses on the creation of novel approaches by which to evaluate the impact of synthetic biology outputs on future bio-manufacturing operations. Experimental and modelling approaches are often also combined to predict large-scale performance, to implement efficient process control, or to evaluate their economic and environmental impact.
Our research addresses challenges in the three most important sectors of the advanced bioprocess-using industries:

  • Industrial Biotechnology.
    Research focuses on biocatalysis and synthetic biology for the sustainable synthesis of chemicals, pharmaceuticals and biofuels from renewable resources. 
  • Macromolecular Medicines.
    Research focuses on the manufacture of advanced biopharmaceutical therapies including antibodies, mRNA and recombinant vaccines. 
  • Cell and Gene Therapy Bioprocessing.
    Research is concerned with the translation of viral vectors, engineered CAR-T cells, and stem -cell science, into novel cell-, tissue-, and gene-therapies.

The Advanced Centre for Biochemical Engineering

The ACBE provides a unique environment for this research. The Centre has outstanding facilities following capital investments worth over £30 million in recent years including a bioprocess pilot plant and a suite of laboratory automation platforms. There is also wide access to other resources across UCL; one of the world’s top universities which was rated first in the UK in terms of ‘research strength’ in REF2014. Research and industrial grant income currently stands at over £60M and supports over 160 doctoral and postdoctoral researchers. Major strategic investments include the £10M EPSRC Future Targeted Healthcare Manufacturing Hub, the £7M EPSRC/DoH Future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub, Vax Hub, the £5.5M EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Bioprocess Engineering Leadership, and a partnership in the £10M EPSRC/BBSRC Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub.

Gloved hand holding a tray and vials

Research tools

USD (ultra scale-down)

Biochemical engineering hand preparing freeze dryer

Research and training centres

EPSRC Future Targeted Healthcare Manufacturing Hub, and the EPSRC CDT in Bioprocess Engineering Leadership

Biochemical engineering hand loading freeze dryer

Centres of excellence

UCL-Pall Biotech CoE for research and training