Biological Sciences

Stephen Wallace awarded UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship

Stephen Wallace, a Lecturer in Biotechnology, is the recipient of a UK government fellowship that supports early career researchers and innovators with outstanding potential.

Stephen Wallace

UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships is a £900 million fund that is helping to establish the careers of world-class research and innovation leaders across UK business and academia.

78 early career researchers at universities across will each benefit from a share of £78 million, including four at the University of Edinburgh.

Future Leaders is part of the Government’s modern industrial strategy, which aims to secure the UK as world-leading in scientific research and innovation.

Engineered Biology

Stephen Wallace’s group at the Institute of Quantitative Biology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology study how bacteria could be used as environmentally-friendly living factories to produce chemicals.

Many chemicals, including fuels, medicines and materials, are currently produced from oil – a non-renewable natural resource.

Stephen’s fellowship will launch the MICRO-CAT project, which aims to equip living bacteria with the ability to perform new chemical reactions.

The development would deliver a significant boost to the rapidly advancing synthetic biology field, which applies engineering principles to biology - such as reprogramming living cells with new and useful functions. 

Merging synthetic biology with powerful synthetic chemistry techniques would expand its repertoire and offer new approaches that could lead to more sustainable ways of producing chemicals.


Instead of tirelessly striving to invent a new enzyme to replace every synthetic reaction, it seems far more sensible to me that existing chemistries could be re-purposed to operate inside living microbial cells. Very few people have attempted this! If we succeed, it will be a step-change in what is possible using engineered biology.

Dr Stephen WallaceSchool of Biological Sciences

Stephen’s multidisciplinary lab has already gained significant attention - attracting £2M from pharmaceutical and biotech industries, charitable organisations and research councils.

UKRI announces new fellows through six competition rounds over the three years of the Future Leaders Fellowships programme.  


I’ve been amazed by the resilience of microorganisms to chemical reagents, and by how many simple chemical solutions there are to problems in biotechnology. By creating a truly multidisciplinary environment for chemists and biologists to interact and research together, we’re constantly making new discoveries, often in areas I never expected we’d end up! I’m so incredibly proud of my team’s achievements thus far. Exploring with them is undoubtedly the best part of my job.

Dr Stephen WallaceSchool of Biological Sciences

Related Links

Stephen Wallace’s Lab  

The Benefits of Synthetic Biology, Chemistry World, Royal Society of Chemistry  

UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships