Professor Mark Smales

Professor of Industrial Biotechnology
Programme Lead PGT Biotechnoloy and Bioengineering


Professor Mark Smales is Professor of Industrial Biotechnology in the School of Biosciences at the University of Kent. The group headed by Mark has a number of on-going projects whose objectives are to further advance our understanding of biotechnological products and processes at the fundamental biological or chemical level to enable their manipulation and control for improved (a) biotherapeutic recombinant protein yields and quality, (b) manufacture of gene therapies, (c) re-tuning of cell metabolism via synthetic biology approaches. His group in particular focusses upon the investigation of cultured mammalian cells for the purposes of producing biotherapeutic proteins for the treatment of disease, for the generation of diagnostics and for manufacturing of gene therapies. This includes upstream and downstream bioprocessing and embracing and utilising novel technologies such as genome editing to engineering cell systems and tune them for the desired use. A further aspect of his work is around mRNA translation and its control. He has a particular interest in how both initiation and elongation message specific control is achieved by the cell when under specific stresses, particularly in response to cold-shock.
Mark is Director of the Industrial Biotechnology Centre and a member of the Industrial Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology Research Group.
ORCID ID: 0000-0002-2762-4724

Research interests

Cell and metabolic engineering, therapeutic recombinant protein biotechnology, gene therapy, vaccine technology, control of mRNA translation 

The focus of the research in the laboratory is to work on aspects relating to improving our understanding of the biology that underpins bioprocessing and recombinant protein production from cell expression systems, particularly in vitro cultured mammalian expression systems. The laboratory is recognised internationally for its work using cultured mammalian cells for in vitro research purposes, particularly in relation to investigating the cellular constraints on recombinant protein productivity, control of mRNA translation, and ore recently its application to manufacturing of gene therapies and vaccines. The laboratory has extensive experience in gene expression analysis in mammalian cell systems, specifically recombinant gene expression, and is ideally placed with strong biotechnological and industrial links to exploit this technology. Currently the laboratory is funded via a number of BBSRC, EPSRC and industrial research grants and studentships. We are always interested in discussing potential projects and collaborations with academic and industrial colleagues. If you are interested, or wish to discuss graduate opportunities (Masters and PhD) or vacancies within the laboratory, please contact us.


MSc-R project available for 2021

Generation of Coronavirus protein antigens for development of diagnostics and novel vaccine approaches (MSc by Research Biochemistry)

Joint supervision between Mark Smales and Prof Martin Warren

This project will build upon the on-going work in the Smales and Warren lab’s at Kent, and the Warren lab at the Quadram Institute in Norwich, to recombinantly produce key protein antigens from the coronavirus and then utilise these in diagnostics and the development of new vaccine candidates based on incorporation into bacteria microcompartments. The project will be undertaken in collaboration with Mologic, commissioned by the Government to develop diagnostics for those who have, or have had, COVID-19, based upon antigen-antibody based tests.

The Warren lab is the world-leading lab on the generation, manipulation and biochemical characterisation of pdu based microcompartments whilst the Smales lab is a world-leading laboratory in the development of systems for the generation of complex glycoproteins in mammalian cells and their application to diagnostics development.

Candidates will be involved in the cloning, expression and characterisation of the major protein components of the virus and various truncations and modifications thereof, and subsequent attachment of these to bacterial microcompartments such that these can be used to generate proof-of-concept data on the utility of this approach to elicit an appropriate immune response indicative of good vaccine candidates. Such technologies will also be explored for application into other areas of vaccine need.

Last updated