James Marshall started with the newly formed IBioIC CTP in October 2017. His PhD is a collaborative effort between the Turner Group in the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) and Prozomix. Find out more about his story.

James Marshall – Student Story

I feel this studentship has given me a fantastic opportunity to progress in my research with benefits to my academic group, my industrial sponsors (Prozomix) and myself.

Successful partnership delivers new product to market
In a collaborative effort between the Turner Group in the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) and Prozomix we developed a high-throughput colorimetric screening platform (IREDy-to-go™) which is now a commercial product through Prozomix.
To see the interest of the kit has been fantastic as not all research can be so easily translated to a commercial platform. The work has also formed a solid publication within our research group.

My research
My research is focused in the area of biocatalysis in the manufacture of fine chemicals, and in particular I’m looking into an enzyme family which is relatively premature in comparison to many other established enzyme families.
The screen includes the largest and most sequentially diverse panel of the enzyme family imine reductases (IREDs).  It was identified by using Prozomix’s large collection of metagenomic libraries, and 384 novel enzymes were found when previous efforts had only amassed 90.  IREDs have the ability to generate chiral amines up to 100% yield, working in more natural reaction conditions and reducing waste.  
To ensure commercial viability of the product, the design and the development of the colorimetric screen was envisaged to offer an alternative to the resource intensive chiral gas chromatography and high-performance liquid chromatography formats.  A simple colour change would indicate that the enzyme had acted on a substrate and this was achieved in the academic lab.
All 384 enzymes were arrayed into 384-well microtiter plates with the other assay components using liquid handling robots at Prozomix. In the first instance approximately 200 plates were fabricated, however, demand from major pharmaceutical companies and academic labs meant that the company had to generate over 1000 plates.

Strengthening academic-industry links
The collaborative links between the Turner group and Prozomix are forever continuing to grow. I have had the opportunity to spend four stints in the company already, with longest lasting 3 months. I used to work at Prozomix before embarking on my PhD and in this new position, I have had a different insight into the company, which has further strengthened my relationship.

My research experience and its commercial application has been complemented by the training and additional opportunities offered by the IBioIC’s CTP programme.  This work would not have been possible without the funding through the IBioIC BBSRC CTP and we look forward to continuing this successful research not only within our academic group and Prozomix but across many other research sectors.