Centre for Synthetic Biology and the Bioeconomy

Staff Profile

Dr James Stach

Senior Lecturer



Principal research interests include the ecology of marine actinomycetes, (diversity, abundance and biogeography), novel natural products from marine actinomycetes, the application of peptide nucleic acids in species-specific bactericide and the development of antisense-based antibacterial screens


Abyssomicin made the National press including The Sun, and The Guardian


  • BSc 1996 Microbiology and Biotechnology (University of Kent)
  • PhD 2001 Microbiology (University of Kent)


  • Member of the Society of General Microbiology
  • Member of the American Society for Microbiology


Google Scholar Profile

Current Work

Verrucosispora AB18-032 and natural products

One of our main research interests is the marine actinomycete species Verrucosispora AB18-032. This species is responsible for the production of the first-in-class natural product abyssomicin C. Abyssomicin C inhibits the essential folic acid pathway present in bacteria and plants. In collaboration with Prof Sussmuth, we recently published how abyssomicin C is biosynthesized. We have completed the full genome sequence of the abyssomicin producer and are currently using genome mining techniques to identify novel bioactive compounds.

Peptide-PNA conjugates as species-specific antimicrobials

This research is funded by a Nuffield new lecturers award. The aim of the research is to develop peptide-PNA conjugates that can specifically target, and prevent transcription of, specific essential bacterial genes. Research in other labs has shown that it is possible to use such conjugates to target bacterial genes. However, the novelty of this research lies in the combination of using essential genes with species-specific sequences. Thus, peptide-PNA conjugates could be used to select target species without providing selection pressure for resistance in non-target organisms. We have recently proven that it is indeed possible to target species for bactericide in a species-specific manner that is not achievable using conventional antibiotics (see publications).

Antisense-based antimicrobial screens

This research is funded by a BBSRC DTG grant. The aim of the study is to develop and validate screens for antibacterial compounds. Induction of antisense RNA reduces the expression of its cognate protein and sensitises the strain to inhibition of that protein. This is of particular value in natural products research where effective antimicrobial compounds may be present in extracts but in amounts below the minimum inhibitory concentration for a wild-type screen. We have recently used this methodology to identify plant-derived inhibitors of the bacterial cell division protein FtsZ . We have also used this methodology to identify the stringency of requirement for essential genes in E. coli that will aid in prioritising targets for drug discovery. Current research aims at validating the screens by correlating protein abundance with mRNA abundance during antisense expressing and using microarrays to demonstrate the specificity of the gene silencing. As such we are developing and validating novel methods that will enable absolute quantification of the amount of specific protein per cell in E. coli.

Research Roles

School of Biology research committee member.

Postgraduate Supervision

Esteem Indicators

Act as a referee for a number of microbiology journals.
Referee for BBSRC, NERC and the NSF (USA)

Invited to write review article for Trends in Microbiology

Invited to give research papers at International conferences (ISBA, ISME)

Invited to contributed chapters to multi-authored books including American Society for Microbiology Press: Microbial Diversity and Bioprospecting

Was invited to be one of five academics on the Department of Trade and Industry’s Global Watch Mission to Japan on Bioprocessing.


Nuffield Foundation new lecturers award: Species-specific peptide nucleic acid (PNA)-based antibiotics

BBSRC: Identification, cloning and heterologous expression of the abyssomicin C biosynthetic gene cluster

BBSRC Partnering China award: Cryptic biosynthetic gene clusters from marine bacteria

Royal Society: Genome mining of Verrucosispora AB18-032 

Industrial Relevance

Founding director (along with Prof Barnes, Dr Singleton and Dr Taybi) of Geneius Laboratories, a spin-out company which is revolutionizing microbial testing and food analysis using state-of-the-art DNA technology. Geneius has recently won the CELS most promising start-up award.

Academic partner on 4 Collaborative Innovation Partnership (CIP) awards


Undergraduate Teaching

BIO1010 Biology in Action

BIO2017 Microbiology 2

BIO3019 Genomics

BIO3021 Laboratory Workshop

BIO3030 Antimicrobial Drug Discovery

BIO3194 Biological Literature Review 

BIO3095 Biological Information Project

BIO3096 Research Project

Postgraduate Teaching

BIO8041 Antimicrobial Drug Discovery

BIO8043 Techniques in Molecular Biology

BIO8047 Entrepreneurship in Biotechnology

BIO8046 Applied Bioinformatics

BIO8096 Research Thesis