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Directing biosynthesis online

12 - 13 April 2021



You are warmly invited to join us online in April 2021. The Directing Biosynthesis conference has been a key meeting in the biosynthetic research calendar for over a decade and is set to be a highlight in 2021 for the community of researchers interested in the biosynthesis of natural products.

Organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry, the 2021 conference will host some of the leading researchers from around the world. Networking and discussion are an important part of Directing Biosynthesis meetings and this remains true for the online forum.

The conference promises to be a great forum for established and early-career scientists, post-graduate students and industrial researchers to network with each other and build strong collaborations for the future.

On behalf of the organising committee, I look forward to welcoming you to our online conference.
Greg Challis University of Warwick


Directing Biosynthesis online will cover all aspects of microbial, plant and marine natural products research, including:
  • Natural product discovery
  • Genetics, enzymology and structural biology of natural product biosynthesis
  • Biosynthetic engineering and synthetic biology
  • Biological function and mechanism of action
  • Industrial applications of natural products and biosynthetic enzymes


The Royal Society of Chemistry is keen to encourage and enable as many people as possible to attend our events, to benefit from the networking opportunities and the chance to hear talks from leaders in the field. If you would like to discuss accessibility, or have childcare, caring responsibilities or other care needs, please contact us to discuss your requirements so that we can enable your attendance. 


Michael Burkart, University of California, United States

Mike Burkart grew up in Texas and received a B.A. in chemistry from Rice University in 1994. He received a PhD from the Scripps Research Institute in 1999 with Chi-Huey Wong, followed by postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School with Chris Walsh. He initiated his own research group at UC San Diego in 2002. He is currently Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and his research includes natural product chemical biology and metabolic engineering. Mike is an RSC Fellow and received the OBC Lecture Award in 2010.

Russell Cox, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany

Russell Cox was born in the New Forest in the UK where he grew up. He studied chemistry at the University of Durham, and then worked with Prof. David O'Hagan at the same institution for his Ph.D., studying the biosynthesis of fungal metabolites. Post-doctoral periods with Professor John Vederas FRS in Edmonton Alberta, and Professors David Hopwood FRS and Tom Simpson FRS at Norwich and Bristol in the UK were followed by his appointment as a lecturer in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol in 1996, where he rose to become full Professor of Organic and Biological Chemistry in 2009. He moved to become Professor of Microbiological Chemistry at the Leibniz Universität Hannover in Germany in 2013. He has served as an editorial board member of Natural Product Reports until 2012, is currently the chair of the editorial board of RSC Advances (which is the worlds largest Gold open access Chemistry Journal), is a member of the advisory board of RSC Chemical Biology, and has been past chair of the RSC Directing Biosynthesis series of scientific conferences. His research focusses on understanding and engineering the biosynthesis of natural products in fungi.

Max Cryle, Monash University, Australia

A/Prof. Max Cryle is an NHMRC Career Development Fellow and EMBL Australia Group leader based in the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University. Since 2020, he is also a chief investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Innovations in Peptide and Protein Science. After obtaining his PhD in chemistry from UQ in 2006, he moved to the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg as a HFSP Cross Disciplinary Fellow. He was subsequently awarded funding from the German Research Foundation to establish his own group to investigate glycopeptide antibiotic biosynthesis as part of the Emmy Noether program: for this work, he was awarded the 2016 Otto Schmeil prize by the Heidelberg Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2016, he joined EMBL Australia where his group investigates the biosynthesis of important peptide antibiotics and investigates novel strategies and targets for antimicrobial development.

Joleen Masschelein, KU Leuven, Belgium

Joleen Masschelein obtained a PhD in Bioscience Engineering at KU Leuven (Belgium) in 2015. She was subsequently awarded a Marie-Sklodowska Curie individual postdoctoral fellowship from the European Commission to join the group of Prof. Greg Challis in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick (UK). In 2017, she moved to the Laboratory for Medicinal Chemistry at KU Leuven as a senior postdoctoral research fellow. Since 2020, she is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Biology at KU Leuven and a group leader at the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology. Her team works at the interface of chemistry and  biology to discover novel bioactive natural products from host-associated bacteria, elucidate unusual pathways for natural product biosynthesis, unravel the ecological role, biological target and mode of action of natural products, and engineer microbes for the production of novel, industrially relevant natural product derivatives and other therapeutic applications.

Jason Micklefield, The University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Jason Micklefield graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1993 with a PhD in Organic Chemistry, working with Professor Sir Alan R. Battersby to achieve the first total synthesis of haem d1. Following this, he was awarded a NATO postdoctoral fellowship (1993-1995) to investigate various biosynthetic pathways and enzyme mechanisms within the laboratory of Professor Heinz G. Floss at the University of Washington, USA. In 1995 he was appointed Lecturer in Organic Chemistry at Birkbeck College, University of London, before moving to Manchester in 1998. He was promoted to Professor of Chemical Biology within the School of Chemistry at the University of Manchester in 2008 where his research group is based in the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB). Jason is also Visiting Professor at the East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST) in Shanghai and Director of the BBSRC funded Natural Products Discovery and Bioengineering Network (NPRONET). He was the recipient of the Natural Product Reports (NPR) lecture award (2008) for his work in biosynthesis.

Jason’s research involves the discovery, characterisation and engineering of biosynthetic pathways to new bioactive natural products, particularly antibiotics. He is also interested in the discovery, structure, mechanism and engineering of enzymes for synthetic applications, including the integration of enzymes with chemocatalysis for telescoping routes to pharmaceuticals and other valuable products. Finally, his lab also developed the first orthogonal riboswitches and is currently developing new genetically encoded biosensors.

Atsushi Minami, Hokkaido University, Japan

Atsushi Minami received his Ph.D. in 2007 from Tokyo Institute of Technology under the direction of Professor Tadashi Eguchi. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Tohru Dairi at Toyama Prefectural University in 2007. He was appointed Assistant Professor at Hokkaido University and then Associate Professor in 2015. He is a recipient of the Chemical Society of Japan Award for Young Chemists (2016). His present research focused on the biosynthesis of natural products and biochemical analysis of biosynthetic enzymes, especially focusing on fungal polyketides, terpenoids, and peptides.

James Naismith, University of Oxford & Rosalind Franklin Institute, United Kingdom

Jim Naismith was born in 1968 and studied Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1989. Inspired by Steve Chapman he sought to apply a chemical training to biological problems. As a Carnegie Scholar he moved to Manchester University to study with Bill Hunter, Dave Garner and John Helliwell earning a PhD in 1992. Following a two year NATO fellowship in the lab of Steve Sprang at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre he returned to the UK and a lectureship in Chemistry at St Andrews starting 1 Jan 1995. Over the next twenty two years he worked at St Andrews with a talented and changing group of students, technicians and post-docs on the structure and function of proteins that make natural products. He was promoted to Reader in 1999, Professor in 2001 becoming the Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Chemical biology in 2014 and graduating with a DSc in 2016. In 2017 he moved to head the Research Complex at Harwell and a chair at Oxford; he is now the Director of the new Rosalind Franklin Institute. Research highlights have included the complete description of the biosynthesis of dTDP-L-rhamnose, the enzymes of the patellamide biosynthetic cluster, halogenating enzymes, the first alpha helical outer membrane protein (that transports sugars across the membrane), amide methylating enzyme and the basis for mechanosensing in bacteria. The research by his co-workers has been recognised by multiple awards (Knowles, Corday-Morgan, Dextra, Colworth) and election to fellowships (FRSE, FMedSci, FRS).

Emily Parker, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Emily completed her undergraduate degree in organic chemistry at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and her PhD in bio-organic chemistry at the University of Cambridge with Chris Abell.  Following a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge, she returned to New Zealand to Massey University initially, and moved to the University of Canterbury in 2006. In 2017 she moved to Victoria University of Wellington to take up a position as Professor of Chemical Biology within the Ferrier Research Institute.
In 2005 she was awarded the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry Easterfield medal. In 2006 She was awarded the Applied Biosystems Award by the New Zealand Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2008, and in 2010 Emily received a National Teaching Award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching.  She is a Deputy Director of the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery.
Emily’s research area spans the areas of chemistry and biology and involves a range of research techniques including natural product biosynthesis, protein evolution and engineering, and molecular and structural biology.  More recently her research group has focused on exploring molecular communication processes and using synthetic biology approaches to biosynthesise and manufacture and bioactive compounds.

Avena Ross, Queen's University, Canada

Avena Ross was raised in New Zealand where she attended the University of Auckland and obtained her BSc (Hons.) in Chemistry in 2005. She completed her PhD under the supervision of Prof. John Vederas, at the University of Alberta, where she studied lanthipeptides and their analogues. In 2012 she joined the lab of Prof. Brad Moore at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography/UCSD as an NSERC Postdoctoral fellow. At Scripps her work focused on the biosynthesis of non-ribosomal peptides in marine Proteobacteria. In January 2015, she began her current position as an Assistant Professor and Queen’s National Scholar in Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry at Queen’s University, Canada. The Ross group uses a multidisciplinary approach to investigate marine bacteria as a source for new bioactive molecules and seeks to understand the methods used by bacteria to enzymatically construct these complex molecules.

Jing-Ke Weng, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States

Jing-Ke Weng received his B.S. (2003) in Biotechnology from Zhejiang University and his Ph.D. (2009) in Biochemistry from Purdue University. He was a Pioneer postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Howard Hughs Medical Institute between 2009 and 2013. Currently he is a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and an Associate Professor of Biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Weng's research focuses on understanding the origin and evolution of plant specialized metabolism at enzyme, pathway, and systems levels, as well as how plants exploit discrete small molecules to interact with their surrounding biotic and abiotic environments. Through synthetic biology and metabolic engineering approaches, he develops new biotechnologies for producing high-value natural products in a sustainable manner. Dr. Weng has won numerous awards in his career, including Beckman Young Investigator (2016), Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow (2016), Searle Scholar (2015), Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences (2014), American Society of Plant Biologists Early Career Award (2014), and Tansley Medal for Excellence in Plant Science (2013).

Changsheng Zhang, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, China

Changsheng Zhang has obtained his B.E. from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 1994, M.E. from East China University of Science and Technology in 1997, and Ph.D from Wuppertal University with Prof. W. Piepersberg, Germany, in 2002, where he studied acarbose biosynthesis. Then he carried out postdoctoral studies from 2003 to 2008 in University of Wisconsin-Madison with Prof. Jon Thorson, where he mainly worked on functional characterization of natural product glycosyltransferases. He has been the Professor of South China Sea Institute of Oceanology-CAS since 2008. He has been in Prof. Shu-Ming Li’s lab (Marburg, 2013 and 2014) and Prof. Yi Tang’s Lab (UCLA, 2017) as a visiting scholar. His researches are focused on the discovery, biosynthesis, and structural diversification of marine microbial natural products, with a focus on the polycyclic compounds. He has published more than 100 original papers, including Science, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Chemical Biology, Nature Communications, Molecular Cell, JACS, Angewante Chemie, Chemical Science, etc. He is now an Editorial Board member of Natural Product Reports, and is also on the Editorial board of Molecules in Natural Products Chemistry Section.

Abstract Submission

Poster Abstracts

The deadline for poster abstracts has passed. Posters will be on display throughout the meeting.

Please read the registration information before registering.

Registration includes:
  • Attendance at the sessions
  • Access to view the online posters
  • Online networking opportunities with other registered delegates
  • A web copy of the abstract book
Catagory Registration fee
Member* £55
Non-member** £75
Student member* £25
Student non-member** £35

Prices above do not include VAT. This will be added during registration at the prevailing rate.

* If you are an Royal Society of Chemistry member and wish to register for this meeting, please select the member option on the online registration page. You will need to enter your membership number.

**For non-member registrants, affiliate membership of the Royal Society of Chemistry until the end of 2021, the affiliate membership application will be processed and commence once the registrant has attended the event.  

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Researcher Development Grant

If you are an RSC member and a PhD student or postdoctoral researcher based at a higher education or research institution you are eligible to apply for a Researcher Development Grant.

This grant can provide up to £250 towards activities that will develop your skills and experience as a researcher, which includes registration fees for virtual conferences.

Applications are processed monthly, with the deadline for each round being the last day of the month, and decisions being sent out by the 21st of the following month. Researcher Development Grants can be applied for in addition to Grants for Carers and Assistance Grants.

Grants for Carers

Grants for carers have been introduced following the Royal Society of Chemistry Breaking the barriers report where 78% of chemists working in UK academia felt that managing parenting and/or caring responsibilities has an impact on women’s retention and progression. This fund is not limited to women scientists and welcomes applications from anyone with caring responsibilities. These grants have been supported by The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Chemists’ Community Fund.

You can apply for up to a maximum of £1000/year to assist with additional financial costs that you incur for care usually provided by you whilst you attend a chemistry related meeting, conference or workshop or a professional development event.

Caring responsibilities are wide and varied, and so each application will be individually assessed, examples of applications that we will consider include:
  • paying for extra home help or nursing care for a dependent whilst you will not be present
  • additional medical/respite care for a dependent whilst you will not be present
  • travel expenses for a relative to travel with you to care for dependents whilst you attend a meeting or event
  • paying for extended hours with a care worker/childminder/play scheme to cover time when you will arrive home later than normal.
You are eligible to apply if: 
  • you are a chemist
  • you will incur additional caring expenses whilst attending a chemistry-related meeting, conference, event or workshop or a professional development event
  • you will use these funds to cover the cost of care that you usually provide 
  • you are based in the UK or Ireland or if not, you will normally have held three years RSC membership (past or current).
Sponsorship & exhibitors
A selection of sponsorship opportunities is available for companies who would like to promote their activities at Directing Biosynthesis online. 

If you would like more information about sponsoring Directing Biosynthesis VI , please contact the Commercial Sales Department at the Royal Society of Chemistry ( 

We are very pleased to announce the following companies will be exhibiting at Directing Biosynthesis online: Sponsorship Menu
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