Nadanai Laohakunakorn awarded UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship
Nadanai Laohakunakorn, a Chancellor's Fellow in Biotechnology, is the recipient of a UK government fellowship that supports researchers and innovators with outstanding potential.
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.
97 researchers across the UK will each benefit from a share of £113 million, including six at the University of Edinburgh.
Future Leaders is part of the Government’s modern industrial strategy, which aims to convert innovative ideas into transformational products and services that tackle major global issues.
Nadanai Laohakunakorn, based at the Institute of Quantitative Biology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology, will develop a method that allows proteins to be sustainably made outside of living cells.
The project ‘self-sustaining cell-free systems’ aims to improve the speed and reduce the cost of manufacturing useful proteins, such as those used in healthcare or environmental monitoring products.
The approach will harness extract the biological machinery that produces proteins inside living cells, integrating it into controlled microscale biochemical reactions in the laboratory.
These ‘cell-free’ reactions are then activated by DNA instructions allowing them to produce more copies of their own components, as well as the protein of interest.
The aim is to develop optimised reactions which, when fed with appropriate nutrients, will have similar regenerative properties as living cells, and ultimately become self-sustaining.
The project will explore how this process can be refined - examining and improving reaction properties and conditions using computational modelling, machine learning, and lab automation.
Self-regeneration is a fundamental property of life itself, but it is almost entirely absent in engineered systems. By attempting to build regeneration from the bottom-up, using cell-free protein synthesis systems, I hope to elucidate how cells achieve this remarkable property, and how we may be able to harness it for biotechnological applications.
Nadanai will draw on expertise and facilities within the University – collaborating with Karl Burgess and Diego Oyarzún, as well as EdinOmics, Edinburgh Genome Foundry, and Edinburgh Protein Production Facility.
UKRI announces new fellows through six competition rounds over the three years of the Future Leaders Fellowships programme.