Microbial toxins threaten human health, while other natural products from these extremophiles have beneficial medicinal and industrial applications.

Genomics and genetic engineering have enabled the discovery and characterisation of microbial extremophiles’ complex biosynthetic pathways. Our research builds on these discoveries and characterisations, with the purpose of manufacturing these molecules as analytical standards for advanced environmental biosensing and therapeutic applications.

Competitive advantage

  • Experience working with natural sensors from photosynthetic microbes
  • Synthetic biology toolkit for production of specialised metabolites
  • Anti-biotoxin development
  • Personal monitoring devices

Successful applications of research

  • Provision of radiolabelled biotoxins to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Patenting and commercialisation of biotoxin genetic testing
  • US EPA guidelines modified to include DNA-based testing for harmful algae in drinking water
  • Biotoxin use in biomedical research and analytical standards for water and food quality assessment


  • Diagnostic Technologies Pty Ltd
  • various Australian Water industry partners


  • Rapid assessment of water quality
  • Detection and prevention of human exposure to biotoxins, antimicrobial and radiation-sensitive biomaterials
  • Sustainable small molecule manufacturing

Capabilities and facilities

  • PC2 synthetic biology facility (24-person capacity)
  • Genomics and bioinformatics
  • Medium-scale fermentation for biomanufacturing (100L)
  • Approved by Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) for Australian Defence export control and chemical weapon security
  • More than 20 years’ experience with Schedule 1 listed (OPCW, UN) biochemical substances

Further reading on: Material Sciences and Manufacturing

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.