Professor Stephanopoulos research is centered around Metabolic Engineering, the engineering of microbes to convert them into little chemical plants for the production of pharmaceutical products, biofuels and other chemicals. In this goal, it harnesses the immense potential of microorganisms for the production of useful products, in particular from renewable resources. This it does by engineering the cellular metabolism such as to favor product-forming pathways while maintaining normal cellular functions. Metabolic engineering is a maturing field, just about 20 years old. During this period, it has developed new concepts, a well-defined methodology and a focused research portfolio of rich intellectual content and particular relevance to biotechnology and biological engineering. Having been founded on modern genetic methods and concepts of chemical reaction engineering, Metabolic Engineering is now adapting itself to rapid changes to take advantage of genome sequencing and avalanches of cell- and genome-wide-data.
Professor Stephanopoulos’ research has contributed to advancing the foundations of metabolic engineering, its key technologies and how it has evolved since its genesis. Particular emphasis is placed on the new and diverse types of chemistry that can be carried out with the use of microbial catalysts that are extremely challenging for synthetic chemistry. Of equal interest are the construction of new (synthetic) pathways for the synthesis of various products, as well as the optimization of the function of such pathways to ensure maximum yield and productivity. Specific examples from the production of biofuels, pharmaceuticals and materials from renewable resources are pursued in the course of this research.