Bioscience for Food, Industry and Energy

Bioscience for Food, Industry and Energy

Bioscience research has an essential role in the provision of affordable, safe and sustainable food, in promoting lifelong health and wellbeing, and in the development of bio-based technologies to support clean and sustainable industry. Research within this theme directly addresses UKRI-BBSRC’s strategic themes of “Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food”, “Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth” and “Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health”. Students working in these areas will benefit from opportunities to gain insight into research policy, commercially relevant problems and the biotechnology and agribusiness sectors through enterprise training, internships and study groups. Students working on livestock diseases will benefit from access to unique and highly specialised containment facilities for animal virology at The Pirbright Institute, along with facilities and expertise at Pirbright, the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University in virus expression systems and vaccine development. Students can also access containment facilities in the Oxford Particle Imaging Centre (OPIC) and at Diamond Light Source for analysis of animal viruses using imaging, structural biology and biophysical techniques.

- Plant science and crop science: Research into plant and crop science aims to understand the fundamental processes underpinning plant growth, development and stress tolerance, and to translate this knowledge to enhance crop yields and food security. As a partnership we have significant strengths in plant cell biology and in interdisciplinary research into plant development, plant chemistry and plant chemical biology. DTP researchers are carrying out pioneering work, enabled by data-driven and systems approaches, to develop 21st Century Crops. For example, research in the Department of Plant Sciences play a leading role in projects that aim to engineer synthetic symbioses between plants and bacteria to deliver nitrogen to crops and to develop C4 rice. Researchers are also studying how knowledge of plastid biology, plant metabolism and oxygen and nutrient sensing mechanisms can be used to increase plant yield and tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress; the molecular mechanisms underpinning plant disease and immunity; pest management; pollinator nutrition and physiology, and agrochemical resistance.

- Animal welfare and control of livestock diseases: We have world-leading expertise in research towards a better understanding of epidemiology and pathogen biology, the dynamics of virus-host interactions, immune responses of the host against infectious agents, and the development of novel and effective vaccines. The Pirbright Institute delivers world-leading research into viral diseases of livestock and has a leadership role in international initiatives such as the Global Foot-and-Mouth Disease Research Alliance and the Global Alliance for Research on Avian Diseases. Researchers at Oxford and Pirbright also conduct research that considers the effects of livestock rearing practices on epidemiology and animal welfare and the connections between the two. Students will be able to explore the application of new technologies to tackle disease and welfare problems, from automated monitoring of animal behaviour through to disease surveillance and understanding and exploiting the microbiome.

- Immunology: Our research into animal health is complemented by research into immunology from a cellular as well as a molecular perspective. Current topics under investigation include macrophage biology and the role of these cells during inflammation; the viral immune response and immune processes in the gut. We are also using interdisciplinary approaches (including mathematical modelling) to understand topics such as cellular signalling by immune receptors and interactions between immune cell populations.

- Industrial Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals: Researchers across the partnership are working to develop sustainable approaches for bioenergy, to develop bio-based processes for sustainable production of bulk and high value products, and to develop innovative approaches for drug discovery and production. The partnership has particular expertise in the development of new and improved methods for protein production for research, vaccines and protein-based biologics. Research in this area is supported by interactions with the UKRI-EPSRC and UKRI-MRC SABS:R3 CDT within the DTC and major centres at OU that support academic-industry collaboration such as the Target Discovery Institute, the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) and NNRCO.