Biological Chemistry

Undertaking fundamental and applied research on the characterization, function and uses of naturally occurring compounds from plants and fungi.

A blanket of purple heather plants

Our research is global with a focus on plant and fungal metabolites and exploring their potential uses to address the global challenges of biodiversity loss and sustainable food production and to enhance human health and well-being.

We study the ecological, nutritional and medicinal properties and applications of naturally occurring plant and fungal chemicals and their role in mediating biological interactions.

Our research generates data to inform conservation and to develop nature-based medicines, improved diets and environmentally benign pest management technologies.

Underpinning our work is expertise in plant and fungal chemistry from individual compound identification to metabolomics and assessing the biological activity and efficacy of metabolites from laboratory scale to clinical and field trials.

For example, we currently study:

  • the influence of nectar and pollen nutrients on pollinator health
  • the effects of bioactive compounds in pollen and nectar on bee pathogens and pollinator behaviour 
  • uses of natural products for human health as medicines, in the diet and for wound healing
  • modulating effects of natural products in cognitive behaviour
  • environmentally benign pest management and natural resistance in crops
  • phylogenetics to identify new sources of useful plant or fungal medicines and the evolution of biosynthetic pathways 
  • molecular modes of action using yeast chemical genetics 
  • pollen lipidomics

Team members

Priority Leader: Trait Diversity and Function
Prof. Phil stevenson

Initiative Leader: Biointeractions and Bioactive Molecules
Dr Melanie-Jayne Howes

Research leaders
Dr Hauke Koch
Dr Moses Langat
Dr Tom Prescott

Post-doctoral researchers
Dr Sam Furse
Dr Holly Siddique
Dr Ed Mas-Claret

Kew Research Fellow 
Dr Carlos Martel

PhD/DPhil Students
Elynor Moore (Oxford)
Ellen Baker (Oxford) 
Juri Felix (Royal Holloway University of London).
Mona Diri (Kingston University London)
Hannah Jefford (Surrey) 

Honorary research associate
Dr Iain Farrell
Dr Alison Scott-Brown

Projects