Dr Frank Sainsbury
Dr Frank Sainsbury

BSc (Hons) University of Sydney, PhD (Plant and Microbial Sciences) John Innes Centre, UK

ARC DECRA Fellow and Associate Group Leader


Telephone: +61 7 3346 3179 Email: f.sainsbury@uq.edu.au

Research Summary: Understanding and exploiting supramolecular self-assembly of protein-based nanoparticles

Dr Frank Sainsbury is an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Awardee investigating innovative approaches to developing novel vaccines and nano-scale therapeutic vehicles. He is using biomolecular engineering of virus-like particles (VLPs) and peptide-stabilised nano-scale emulsions to create protein-based nanoparticles with sophisticated properties for intracellular antigen delivery and cell-specific targeting of drugs and imaging agents. These advanced applications are underpinned by fundamental research in molecular self-assemble of VLPs and the interfacial properties of peptide-stabilised emulsions. Deep understanding of the structure-function relationship of both particle types guides the development of purification and assembly processes as well as enabling their controlled functionalization.

Dr Sainsbury’s background is in the plant-based production of pharmaceutically relevant proteins, principally VLPs, and is a 2012 recipient of the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Innovator of the Year award in recognition of his work in plant-based vaccine production and his role in achieving impact for this ground breaking technology. The granted patent resulting from this work is licensed for the production of influenza vaccines currently in late-stage clinical trials and underpins a recent £5M UK Government (BBSRC) investment in a facility to exploit the technology. Dr Sainsbury carried out industry-funded postdoctoral work on the manufacture and engineering of VLPs as drug delivery vehicles and inorganic particle templates. This was followed by a stint at Laval Univeristy, Canada where Dr Sainsbury is now an Adjunct Professor and postgraduate student supervisor. His work there pioneered the use of synthetic biology to modify whole plant hosts for recombinant protein production and protein engineering in plant biotechnology.

Dr Sainsbury has an excellent record of publication in biotechnology, bioengineering and bionanotechnology. He is an inventor on 5 patents relating to high-yield protein production in plants and VLP engineering and is regularly invited to contribute reviews on these topics. To date his research has been supported by an Australian Research Council (DECRA), a UQ ECR Grant, UniQuest Pathfinder and Contract Research grants, and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

Key publications

Full list of publications available at UQ eSpace.

Catrice EVB, Sainsbury F (2015) Assembly and purification of polyomavirus-like particles from plants. Molecular Biotechnology 57: 904-913.

Jutras PV, D’Aoust M-A, Couture M, Vezina L-P, Goulet M-C, Michaud D, Sainsbury F (2015) Modulating secretory pathway pH by proton channel co-expression can increase recombinant protein stability in plants. Biotechnology Journal 10: 1478-1486.

Sainsbury F, Lomonossoff GP (2014) Transient expressions of synthetic biology in plants. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 19: 1-7.

Sainsbury F, Zeng BJ, Middelberg APJ (2014) Towards designer nanoemulsions for precision delivery of therapeutics. Current Opinion in Chemical Engineering 4: 11-17.

Sainsbury F, Rhéaume A-J, Vorster BJ, Goulet M-C, Michaud D (2012) Discrimination of differentially inhibited cysteine proteases by activity-based profiling using cystatin variants with tailored specificities. Journal of Proteome Research 11: 5983-5993.

Sainsbury F, Saunders K, Aljabali AAA, Evans DJ, Lomonossoff GP (2011) Peptide-controlled access to the interior surface of empty virus nanoparticles. ChemBioChem 12: 2435-2440.

Sainsbury F, Cañizares MC, Lomonossoff GP (2010) Cowpea mosaic virus: the plant virus-based biotechnology workhorse. Annual Review of Phytopathology 48: 437-455.

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