‘By applying engineering principles to biology, we develop artificial biological systems that can create green chemical processes, control invasive species and diagnose diseases.'

The spark

'The idea of combining man-made and natural systems has fascinated humans for centuries. However, despite the explosion of life science advances, integration of electronic and biological systems remains woefully underdeveloped. Yet, there is a space between the digital and the physical world where the information becomes matter and matter becomes information. This is the cutting edge of synthetic biology field that holds promise of transformative innovation capable of giving us much needed technologies for sustainable and healthy world.'

Research aim

'To enable biological and electronic systems to communicate bidirectionally and seamlessly, which will enable the creation of biological systems controlled by non-conscious intelligent agents as well as machines controlled by biological intelligence.'

Real-world implications

'Early examples of such integration could be continuous physiological monitoring  that would transform the way we diagnose and treat diseases, design biotechnological processes and manage livestock.'

The challenge

'Technological transitions are long and painful when the new imperfect technology is competing with the inferior but entrenched way of doing things. The main challenge for us is to create a first  real-life product that would provide value to the end user. Most likely this will come in the form of a diagnostic and analytic test that can be performed outside of the diagnostic laboratory.'


'We teach by giving our students exciting projects that have real life applications and encourage them to interact with the practitioners.'

Key achievements

  • Unravelling the earliest recorded history of microbial life on Earth using isotopic, molecular and sedimentological techniques.
  • Developing and flying instrumentation designed to address the astrobiology goals of major space missions.
  • Managing a team that operates the most complex object ever sent to Mars, the Perseverance Rover.

Key collaborators

  • Pathology Queensland (Queensland Health)
  • Clarkson University, New York
  • ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology

Key publications

  • Guo Z., Smutok O., Johnston WA, Walden P., Ungerer J., Peat TS, Newman J, Parker J, Nebl N., Hepburn C., Melman A., Suderman R, Katz E. and Alexandrov K.,  Design of a methotrexate-controlled chemical dimerization system and its use in bio-electronic devices. Nature Communications In press.
  • Souilmi Y, Lauterbur ME, Tobler R, Huber CD, Johar AS, Moradi SV, Johnston WA, Krogan NJ, Alexandrov K, Enard D. An ancient viral epidemic involving host coronavirus interacting genes more than 20,000 years ago in East Asia. Curr Biol. 2021 Jun 17:S0960-9822(21)00794-6.
  • Guo, Z, Johnston, WA, Whit eld , J, Walden, P & Cui, Z Wijker E., Edwardraja S., Retamal I., Ely F., Vickers C., Ungerer J.P. J.  and Alexandrov K. Generalizable Protein Biosensors
    Based on Synthetic Switch Modules', J Am Chem, 2019, 2019 May 22;141(20):8128-8135
  • Mureev S, Kovtun O, Nguyen UT, Alexandrov K. Speciesindependent translational leaders facilitate cell-free expression. Nature Biotech 2009; 27(8): 747-52.


Genome study reveals East Asian coronavirus epidemic 20,000 years ago

Professor Kirill Alexandrov, from QUT’s Centre for Genomics and Personalised Health, is part of a team of researchers who have published a study that discovered a coronavirus epidemic broke out in the East Asia region more than 20,000 years ago.


Connect Kirill Alexandrov on social media.

Connect with Professor Michael Milford