For group website, please visit: www.elanigroup.org
Dr Yuval Elani is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and Lecturer (Asst. Professor) at Imperial Chemical Engineering. He leads the Bioinspired Engineering Group which consists of 20 PDRAs and PhD students. Yuval is an expert in synthetic biology, bio-membrane engineering, opto- / microfluidics, and molecular bioengineering.
Since completing his PhD in 2015 Yuval has secured > £3.6M as PI to conduct both blue-skies and applied research and has set up multiple collaborations with clinicians and industry (including AstraZeneca, Syngenta and GSK Vaccines). He has won multiple prizes and medals, including the Roscoe Medal, Rita and John Cornforth Medal, IC President’s Medal, and the RSC Felix Franks Medal for Biotechnology.
Yuval’s research is focussed on answering the following question: Can we construct artificial cells – entities that mimic the architectures, processes, and behaviours of biological cells - from scratch?
Our ambition is to usher in a new era of biodesign, where synthetic cells can be engineered from the bottom up for bespoke applications: designer micromachines that can be used to deliver drugs, manufacture chemicals, generate their own energy, produce novel materials, and act as environmental sensors. It will allow us to not only mimic biology, but to surpass it: incorporating wholly synthetic building blocks, of the sort that biology cannot access, will give engineered lifeforms new capabilities. By blurring the boundaries between living and non-living matter, Yuval’s group use artificial cells (i) as models to shed light on universal biological phenomena in simplified and highly controlled settings and (ii) as micromachines that perform biotechnologically useful functions in a suite of industrial and clinical applications.
Prior to joining Imperial, Yuval was at Cambridge University where he studied Natural Sciences. Yuval was recently honoured by the World Economic Forum, who selected him to be part of their Young Scientist Community (50 under 40 worldwide), and he sits on the EPSRC Early Career Forum for Engineering.
- Co-Director of the Membrane Biophysics Platform
- Co-Founder and Co-Director of fabriCELL
- Member of Executive of Leverhulme Cellular Bionics Centre
- Board member of the Imperial College Centre for Synthetic Biology
- Member of EPSRC Early Career Forum for Engineering
- Associate Editor for Experimental Biology and Medicine
HONOURS, PRIZES & AWARDs
2021 Royal Society of Chemistry Felix Franks Medal for Biotechnology
2021 BBSRC/NSF Lead Agency Grant w. Caltech (PI)
2020 EPSRC New Horizons Grant (PI)
2020 Appointed to Faculty of ChemEng at Imperial
2020 UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship
2019 President Medal, Outstanding Early Career Researcher
2019 Imperial College Research Fellowship
2018 Associate Fellow of Higher Education Academy
2017 Royal Society of Chemistry Rita & John Cornforth Medal
2017 World Economic Forum, '50 under 40'
2016 EPSRC Fellowship
2015 EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellowship
2015 Roscoe Medal, Parliamentary & Scientific Committee
2011 Lord Porter Prize
Yuval leads a multi-disciplinary group that develop new biochemical technologies that can be exploited in the fundamental and applied sciences. Specific research areas include:
1. ARTIFICIAL CELLS. We design and build synthetic cells that possess behaviours that are the hallmarks of life: motility, energy generation, communication, replication, computation, protein production, self-repair, and evolution. We are seeking to exploit these behaviours in biomedical contexts (including synthetic cell therapies).
2. MICROFLUIDICS. We are constantly developing new state-of-the-art microfluidic technologies for synthetic biology applications, as well as to address challenges identified by our academic, industrial and clinical collaborators. These include continuous flow and microdroplet technologies, as well as opto-fluidic tools.
3. SOFT PARTICLE ENGINEERING. We develop new platforms which enable precision engineering of nano/micro-scale soft particles with user-defined architectures. We can control the shape, molecular topology, number of compartments, lipid composition, membrane asymmetry, phase, compartment connectivity, and encapsulated cargo of the particles. We are particularly interested in designing novel stimuli-responsive membranes that can release content in response to various intrinsic/extrinsic cues (temperature, light, magnetic fields, acoustic waves, pH, hypoxia).
4. BIOMIMETIC CELL MODELS. We use synthetic cells as highly-controlled models to answer fundamental questions of biological/biomedical relevance, and as tools that feed into drug/agrichem discovery pipelines.
5. CELLULAR BIONICS. We are interested in fusing our engineered (inanimate) biochemical microsystems with biological cells to yield living/synthetic composite systems. We embed living cells in synthetic ones, engineer them to act as organelles within the hybrid entity, and create populations of interacting living and synthetic cells
6. ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS. We develop technologies to bypass bottlenecks that are hindering the deployment of artificial cells in real-world applications. These include scaling up generation throughput through new manufacturing strategies, scaling down their size, and increasing their shelf-life and life-time.
We are currently recruiting for a postdoc to start in Q2 of 2022. This is part of a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship on Cellular Bionics. If you are interested in joining our team as a postdoc please email your CV to Yuval.
We currently have two fully-funded PhD studentships available for an October 2023 start: These are open to both home and international students.
These studentships involve the development of new technologies to generate vesicle-based synthetic cells and architecturally complex nanoparticles. This will involve designing and working with novel bio-membranes, cell-free protein expression systems, gene circuits, as well as microfluidic platforms. These will be multi-disciplinary projects which, depending on the applicant’s background and research interests, will span across one or more of the research areas of molecular bioengineering, chemical biology, synthetic biology, soft matter, membrane biophysics, and microfluidics. If you are interested in applying, and if you would like to hear more about these projects, please send your CV to Yuval.
We are always on the lookout for excellent MRes, PhDs, PDRAs, and fellows to join the group. If you are interested, please get in touch directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prospective PhD students should be aware of the President's PhD Scholarship Scheme, Schrödinger Scholarship Scheme, China Scholarship Council, and Imperial Marshall Scholarship. We have accepted MRes students from research programmes in Chemical Biology, Plant Chemical Biology, and Nanomaterials in the past, but those on other courses who would like to work with us are welcome to get in touch.
We would also welcome interest to join the group as a postdoc fellow (e.g. on Marie Curie, EPSRC and BBSRC schemes)
et al., 2022, Stimuli-responsive vesicles as distributed artificial organelles for bacterial activation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of Usa, Vol:119, ISSN:0027-8424, Pages:1-10
et al., 2022, Hydrogels as functional components in artificial cell systems, Nature Reviews Chemistry, Vol:6, ISSN:2397-3358, Pages:562-578
et al., 2022, Dynamic reconfiguration of subcompartment architectures in artificial cells., Acs Nano, Vol:16, ISSN:1936-0851
Contini C, Hu W, Elani Y, 2022, Manufacturing polymeric porous capsules, Chemical Communications, Vol:58, ISSN:1359-7345, Pages:4409-4419
Monck C, Elani Y, Ceroni F, 2022, Cell-free protein synthesis: biomedical applications and future perspectives, Chemical Engineering Research and Design, Vol:177, ISSN:0263-8762, Pages:653-658