Directing Biosynthesis VI

12 - 14 April 2021, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

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. It promises to be a great forum for researchers working in biosynthesis to network with and build strong collaborations within their community and related disciplines.

Networking and discussion are an important part of Directing Biosynthesis and the main poster sessions have been timed for the middle of the day to give ample and priority time for this key aspect.


Directing Biosynthesis VI 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. Please refer also to our Grants for carers fund, for more information please see the ‘bursaries’ section on this page.

Ikuro Abe, The University of Tokyo, Japan

Ikuro Abe is Professor of Natural Products Chemistry at Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, The University of Tokyo (2009-). He received his B.S. (1984) and Ph.D. (1989) from The University of Tokyo. After two years postdoctoral research with Professor Guy Ourisson at the CNRS Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles, and mostly with Professor Michel Rohmer at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Mulhouse in France (1989-1991), he moved to the USA to work with Professor Glenn D. Prestwich at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (1991-1996) and then at The University of Utah (1996-1998). His research interests mostly focus on exploring and engineering the natural products biosynthesis. He has authored 200+ publications including Nature, Nat. Chem. Biol., Nat. Commun., JACS, ACIE, and PNAS. He received the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan Award in 2019, and Prizes for Science and Technology by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan. He is a former President of The Japanese Society of Pharmacognosy.

Squire Booker, The Pennsylvania State University, United States

Squire J. Booker is an Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the Eberly Family Distinguished Chair in the College of Science at the Pennsylvania State University. He is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He received a B.A. degree with a concentration in chemistry from Austin College in 1987 and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. After postdoctoral studies in Paris, France and at the University of Wisconsin, he joined the faculty at Penn State in 1999. Booker’s research focuses on natural product biosynthesis, antibiotic resistance and metalloenzymology, with a particular emphasis on the methylation and sulfhydrylation of unactivated carbon centers.

Anna Fryszkowska, Prinicpal Scientist - Merck, United States

Ania Fryszkowska is an Associate Principal Scientist in the group of Enabling Technologies at Merck Sharp and Dohme, USA. She did her doctoral training in organic chemistry at Warsaw University of Technology, PL and her postdoctoral training with Nigel Scrutton at Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, UK before moving to pharmaceutical industry in 2010. 

In her industrial research Anna’s focuses on broad application of enzyme catalysis in the synthesis and manufacture of pharmaceutical intermediates and drug molecules. Her most recent work harnesses the power of directed evolution and biocatalytic cascades to construct structural complexity of non-natural molecules. She is the author of 20+ scientific publications and 7 patent applications.

Christian Hertweck, Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection, Germany

Christian Hertweck is the Head of Department Biomolecular Chemistry and Deputy Director at the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology (HKI), and a Full Professor in the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. His research focuses on the discovery of microbial natural products, elucidating and harnessing their biosynthesis (genome mining, pathway engineering), and studying the molecular basis of microbial interactions. In recognition of his group's contribution to the field he was granted numerous awards including the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, and was elected as member of the German National Academy (Leopoldina) in 2015.

Timm Maier, University of Basel, Switzerland

Timm Maier studied Biochemistry at the University of Tübingen, Germany, and completed his Doctorate in Structural Biology with Wolfram Saenger at Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany, in 2003. Timm Maier then moved as a Postdoc to the lab of Nenad Ban at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, where he was promoted to a team leader and lecturer position in 2006. In 2011, Timm Maier moved to the Biozentrum of the University of Basel as tenure track Assistant Professor and is Associate Professor of Structural Biology at Biozentrum since 2016. He and his team are best known for structural studies on giant multienzymes, in particular fatty acid and polyketide synthases, as well as on metabolic regulation and mTOR complexes.

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.

Bradley Moore, University of California San Diego, United States

Bradley Moore is a natural product chemist and biochemist at the University of California at San Diego, known for his work applying genomics of microbial and marine life to discover genes, enzymes, and chemicals associated with specialized metabolism to Nature’s arsenal of bioactive small molecules like antibiotics and toxins. He is the recipient of numerous awards in the field, including the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society in 2013 and the Natural Product Chemistry Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2018.

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).

Martin Schmeing, McGill, Canada

Martin performed graduate research with Tom Steitz at Yale University, studying the architecture and mechanism of the large ribosomal subunit. He then performed postdoctoral training at the LMB, Cambridge, with Venki Ramakrishnan, using cryo-EM and X-ray crystallography to investigate initiation and elongation of translation. Martin established his own laboratory at McGill University in 2010, where he studies nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPSs). Two aspects of particular focus of the group’s NRPS research are the catalytic event which links substrate building blocks into peptide products, and the manner in which these enzymes’ domains and modules work together in a complicated and productive catalytic cycle. Martin is currently an Associate Professor of the Department of Biochemistry, the Director of the McGill Centre for Structural Biology, an Associate Director of the McGill Facility for EM Research and the Canada Research Chair in Macromolecular Machines.

Ren Xiang Tan, Nanjing University, China

Ren Xiang Tan, China. China Pharmaceutical Univ. (BS 1983, MS 1986), Lanzhou Univ. (Ph D 1990, Prof. Z. J. Jia), Technical Univ. Berlin (Visiting Ph D candidate, 1989-1990, Prof. F. Bohlmann), Univ. Lausanne (Visiting scholar, 1995 and 1997, Prof. K. Hostettmann), Univ. California San Diego (Visiting scholar, 2001 and 2003, Prof. W. Fenical), Nanjing Univ. (Associate Prof., 1992; Prof., 1994-present), Nanjing Univ. of Chinese Medicine (Chair Prof., 2016-present; Vice-president, 2016-2018). He works on the discovery and biosynthesis of symbiont-derived bioactive natural products.

Yi Tang, University of California Los Angeles, United States

Yi Tang received his undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering and Material Science from Penn State University.  He received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from California Institute of Technology under the guidance of Prof. David A. Tirrell.  After NIH postdoctoral training in Chemical Biology from Prof. Chaitan Khosla at Stanford University, he started his independent career at University of California Los Angeles in 2004.  He is currently a professor at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UCLA, and holds joint appointments in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; and Department of Bioengineering.  His awards include the ACS Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award (2012), the EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (2012), NIH DP1 Director Pioneer Award (2012) and the ACS Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry (2014). 

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).

Chris Willis, University of Bristol, United Kingdom

Chris Willis is currently Head of the Organic and Biological Chemistry Section at the University of Bristol.  Her collaborative research programmes focus on the use of both synthetic biology and organic synthesis to elucidate and manipulate biosynthetic pathways to deliver novel bioactive compounds and biocatalysts, leading to >170 publications. She was awarded the RSC Flintoff Medal in 2008, was a member of the Bristol Polyketides Group awarded the 2013 Rita and John Cornforth Award and recently was recognised by an IUPAC 2019 Distinguished Women in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering Award. 

Wenjun Zhang, University of California Berkeley, United States

Wenjun Zhang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at University of California Berkeley and the Charles R. Wilke Endowed Chair in Chemical Engineering. She did her doctoral training with Yi Tang at UCLA and her postdoctoral training with Christopher T. Walsh at Harvard Medical School before joining UC Berkeley in 2011. She is the author of 70+ scientific publications and received awards such as Pew Scholar (2012), NIH Director’s New Innovator (2015), Sloan Research Fellow (2016), American Cancer Society Research Scholar (2017), Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2019), etc. Zhang Lab is broadly interested in natural product discovery, biosynthesis, engineering, and biological studies.

Abstract Submission

Poster Abstracts

Submit your poster abstract before 1 February 2021. Posters will be on display throughout the meeting.

Additional Information

Authors will be notified of the outcome of the review process within about 4 weeks of the submission deadline. The abstracts should be no longer than one A4 page in portrait layout. Please ensure you provide the details of the presenting author and indicate whether you are submitting an abstract for oral or poster presentation. 

Please read the registration information before registering.
Please note accommodation is not included in the registration fee.

Registration includes:
  • Attendance at the sessions 
  • Refreshments throughout the meeting
  • Lunch on all three days
  • Attendance at the drinks reception on Monday 12 April
  • Attendance at the conference dinner on Tuesday 13 April
  • ***For non-member registrants, membership of the Royal Society of Chemistry until the end of 2021
Early bird
(before Feb 22 2021)
(before Mar 22 2021)
RSC Member £334.17 £400
Non-member*** £445.83 £491.67
Student Member £245.83 £287.50
Student non-member*** £266.67 £308.30

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.  

Conference Dinner

The conference dinner on Tuesday 13 April 2021 and is included in the regsitration fee. 

Accompanying person

If you would like to bring a guest to the conference, this can be done during the registration process. There will be a charge of £140 +VAT which will include all lunches, refreshments and the conference dinner but does not include attendance at any scientific sessions. 

Travel insurance

Delegates are advised to ensure that they have appropriate travel insurance in place.
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Terms and Conditions for Events run by the Royal Society of Chemistry

In light of COVID-19, we are not currently accepting applications to our Travel Grant for PhD Students and Early Career Scientists. We will update our Travel Grants website with more information as it becomes available.
Sponsorship & exhibitors
A selection of sponsorship opportunities is available for companies who would like to promote their activities at Directing Biosynthesis VI 

As well as booking a table top exhibition space, there are opportunities to sponsor social events, advertise in the abstract book or place a promotional item in delegate packs. For further information and prices please download the sponsorship menu from this page.

Please note that exhibition spaces are limited, spaces will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

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 VI: Sponsorship Menu
John McIntyre Conference Centre

John McIntyre Conference Centre, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH16 5AY, United Kingdom

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