Professor Saunders is a medically and PhD trained microbiologist with extensive experience in comparative and functional genomics, addressing bacteria ranging from pathogens to industrially applicable species. Formerly a member of the molecular infectious diseases group at the Institute of Molecular Medicine, and PI the Bacterial Pathogenesis and Functional Genomics Group at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at Oxford University (including two Wellcome Trust Fellowships); he moved to Brunel University to take up the newly created Chair of Systems and Synthetic Biology in 2011.
Since moving into Synthetic Biology he has focussed upon a new bottom-up strategy to develop the biological and analytical tools and resources necessary for knowledge-based design of bacterial systems. Comparative and evolutionary biology approaches have been taken, based upon newly robust and consistent bioinformatics and strain-collection foundations, to identify behavioural determinants: strains, genes, gene-variants, that can be identified for strain selection and engineering; leading to a range of capabilities and resources. These have been applied to parts discovery, enzyme variant identification for pathway engineering, targeted strain selection and process-optimization for bio-enhanced concrete, improved product-tolerant chassis strains, evolved communities for waste remediation, overcoming catabolite repression, and more.
Professor Saunders was also a founding manager of the Oxford University Computational Biology Research Group, providing bioinformatics and computational biology to Life Sciences and the Medical School at Oxford; Lecturer and Senior Research Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford; Fellow of University College, Oxford; and is currently the Theme Leader of the Synthetic Biology Research Theme at Brunel University London.