Imperial College London


Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Life Sciences

Honorary Senior Lecturer



+44 (0)20 7594 5355j.heap




Bessemer BuildingSouth Kensington Campus





*** NEWS: We have received highly-competitive research funding in the first ever round of Imperial's new Excellence Fund for Frontier Research (EFFR)! Our project in collaboration with Guy-Bart Stan (Department of Bioengineering) and Connor Myant (Dyson School of Design Engineering) will develop a novel technology for 3D printing with synthetic biology. It's great that Imperial is investing in it's strategy, in our case supporting innovative 'frontier' research, but also supporting innovations in teaching.***

*** NEWS: Our new lab website is now online. It's a bit sparse right now, but we will be adding more content soon. ***

Dr John Heap is a Senior Lecturer in Synthetic Biology in the Department of Life Sciences. His research group is based in the Imperial College Centre for Synthetic Biology (IC-CSynB). The group website is at

We are interested in the design and construction of synthetic biological systems which process matter, energy and information in useful ways not observed in nature. Our research involves both the development of foundational biological technologies and their use for applications, mainly in chemical manufacture and in health. An important aspect of this research is developing reliable approaches to implement synthetic biological systems using diverse organisms important (or with the potential to be) in industrial or medical applications. Engineering metabolism is often important for our applications, and a particular interest is how non-natural metabolic constraints can be used to re-direct fluxes and achieve high yields.

We work on several different types of organisms, but focus most on Clostridium and cyanobacteria, in which we are developing and applying new approaches to exploit the great metabolic potential of these important microorganisms.

If you are not a scientist (or even if you are) and would like a non-specialist introduction to some of our research interests and motivations, have a look at John's ‘IdeasLab’ presentation at the World Economic Forum:

Hacking exotic organisms and putting them to work

John's World Economic Forum IdeasLab talk on YouTube

Before starting his group in 2013, John was a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Bayer lab in CSynBI, where he worked on synthetic metabolic systems in microbial photosynthesis and anaerobic fermentation. 

Prior to joining Imperial College in 2011, John completed his PhD and worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The University of Nottingham, where he developed crucial genetic tools for the industrially and medically important bacterial genus Clostridium. These tools (e.g. see clostron.comhave had a great impact on the field, and are used by John and many others in genetic and metabolic engineering for medical and industrial applications.

Click here to see more publications.