Study level


Master of Philosophy


Vacation research experience scheme


Science and Engineering Faculty

School of Biology and Environmental Science

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Associate Professor Mark Harrison
Principal Research Fellow
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Dr Pawel Sadowski
Research Fellow (Proteomics)
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Professor Robert Speight
Professor (Microbial Biotechnology)
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Dr James Strong
Research Fellow
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


Australia generates thousands of tonnes of organic waste residues related to agriculture (e.g. sugar and cotton industries). These are generally unsuitable as bacterial growth substrates, but can be utilised by fungi.

Fungi have developed an array of enzymes that allow them to access cellular building blocks and energy stored in recalcitrant carbon or ligno-cellulosic/hemi-cellulosic waste material.

The aim of this project is to harness the fungi’s ability to access this carbon and generate fungal biomass (mycelia and fruiting bodies) that contain medicinal and bioactive metabolites.

Various material will be assessed in solid state fermentation to produce medicinal compounds such as:

  • triterpenoids
  • hericinones
  • erinacines
  • ganoderic acid.

The work will cover five major aspects:

  • Generating a healthy active spawn (a fungal inoculum) that is used as seed material.
  • Adding this spawn to various agricultural residues and then using process and growth conditions to enhance fungal colonisation.
  • Using the colonised material to generate fruiting bodies by altering the growth conditions.
  • Extracting and quantifying metabolites in the mycelia and the fruiting bodies (e.g. protein content, nutritional lipids and compounds of medicinal interest.
  • High-end mass spectrometry to identify and quantify target compounds.

Research activities

We're looking to create an active spawn (fungal inoculum) using different materials, such as rice and barley.

This will be added to various agricultural residues and the process enhanced to maximise fungal colonisation.

The colonised material will be assessed for fruiting body formation i.e. growing mushrooms).

The fruiting bodies and the colonised substrate will be extracted and assessed for nutritional lipids.

Various purification methods coupled to mass spectrometry will be used to quantify these compounds and potentially identify new bioactive metabolites.


The project aims to develop a deep understanding of secondary metabolism as well as relatie the target compounds to mycelia development and fruiting body formation, particularly in Hericium and Ganoderma strains.

High impact journal publication, as well as other forms of communication, will be targeted. We hope to submit one patent regarding enhanced metabolite synthesis.

Skills and experience

This project will require the ability to develop extraction and analytical methods (GC-MS, HPLC-MS), microscopy, and various assays to determine bioactivity of extracted compounds.

While not essential, the following skills and/or experiences are desirable:

  • background in biochemistry and secondary metabolites or terpenoid synthesis
  • sound aseptic technique
  • strong analytical strengths
  • ability to work independently
  • ability to develop methods and techniques independently.



Contact the supervisor for more information.