C3 Seminar: Prof. Tom Bibby
Topic: Tapping the unused potential of photosynthesis
Light refreshments provided after talk - All are welcome!
Increasing the efficiency by which photosynthesis converts light energy to products represents a grand challenge in biotechnology. In the sunlit ocean the capacity for light absorption is often in excess of the capacity for using this energy for growth, resulting in much of the absorbed energy being wasted as heat or fluorescence, or lost as excess reductant via alternative electron dissipation pathways. We use this knowledge of photosynthesis in the ocean to engineer the model cyanobacterium Synechococcus to harness this excess potential to drive useful chemical reactions. We expressed a mammalian cytochrome P450 to serve as an artificial electron sink for excess electrons derived from light-catalyzed water-splitting. This improved photosynthetic efficiency by increasing the maximum rate of photosynthetic electron flow. We have shown in live cells that photosynthetic reductant can be redirected to power a heterologous cytochrome P450. Furthermore, Synechococcus PCC 7002 expressing P450 was shown to degrade the herbicide atrazine, a widespread environmental pollutant. This, and other projects, highlight how photosynthetic microbes can be developed for the sustainable production of a range of high-value products and services.
About the Speaker
Prof. Tom Bibby
University of Southampton
Tom Bibby is a Professor of Biological Oceanography at the University of Southampton, National Oceanography Centre in the UK. He completed a PhD in Biochemistry at Imperial College in 2002, studying photosynthesis at the molecular scale, including the structural characterization of novel photosynthetic complexes. He then completed post-doctoral research in the field of biological oceanography at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, USA, completing research in waters off Hawaii and Bermuda. This research involved the study of photosynthesis on a global scale and included investigating the controls of oceanic primary production. In 2005, he returned to the UK and the University of Southampton as a Roberts Academic Fellow, establishing a research group that continues to use molecular and systems approaches to study photosynthesis from the High-Latitude North Atlantic to the Southern Ocean. Recently, this research has expanded to include the molecular engineering of photosynthetic species as sustainable sources of high-value products and services. He became Professor in 2016 and is currently a Visiting Researcher at the University of Sydney.