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Dr Thomas Vanhercke

Future Protein Mission - Novel Production Systems lead; Sr. Scientist


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I am harnessing the awesome power of metabolic engineering, protein engineering and synthetic biology to optimize the production of bespoke metabolites in both crop and microorganisms, with a particular interest in proteins and lipids. My early work focused on the engineering of enzymes that are involved in plant and yeast lipid metabolism using rational protein design and directed evolution. More recently, I have undertaken extensive work on combinatorial metabolic engineering of vegetative plant parts (leaf, stem, root...) to accumulate high levels of valuable plant oils that are normally stored only in certain seeds. These 'fat plants' offer the potential of delivering game-changing oil yields that potentially outperform current oil crops several-fold. Currently, I am extending synthetic biology principles into the plant kingdom to lift plant metabolic engineering and forward/reverse genetics to a high throughput level. Finally, I have expanded my interest into the area of precision fermentation for the production of high-value food ingredients.

In my cross-cutting roles as an Application Domain Leader for the CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform and as the Novel Protein Production Systems Lead for the CSIRO Protein Mission, I manage a broad portfolio of strategic R&D projects at different TRL levels and am establishing a multidisciplinary Precision fermentation/Biomanufacturing research pipeline within CSIRO.

Current Roles

  • CSIRO Future Protein Mission - Novel protein Production Systems lead
    R&D portfolio management - Focus on Horizon 2/1 impact delivery

  • Group Leader - Synthetic Traits
    Synthetic Biology in agriculture & Food

Academic Qualifications

  • 2005

    PhD in Applied Biological Sciences: Cell and Gene Biotechnology
    Gent University / Bayer BioScience

  • 1999

    Bio-Engineer (MSc) in Cell and Gene Biotechnology
    Gent University

Professional Experiences

  • 2020-2022

    Application Domain Leader - Agriculture & Food Synthetic Biology
    CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform

  • 2019-2019

    Group Leader (acting)
    CSIRO Agriculture & Food

  • 2013-current

    Research Scientist
    CSIRO Agriculture & Food

  • 2012-2013

    Research Project Officer
    CSIRO Plant Industry

  • 2006-2011

    Postdoctoral Fellow
    CSIRO Plant Industry

  • 2004-2005

    Junior Scientist
    Bayer BioScience

  • 1999-2004

    Bayer BioScience

We have publications by Dr Thomas Vanhercke