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Begbrooke Science Park

Associate Professor

Wei Huang BEng MSc DPhil

Associate Professor of Engineering Science

Fellow of St Edmund Hall

TEL: 01865 283786


Professor Wei Huang completed an MSc (1998) at Tsinghua University and PhD (2002) at the University of Sheffield. He was lecturer and senior lecturer at University of Sheffield 2007-2014.

Wei moved to Oxford in October 2014 as associate professor. He is EPSRC Fellow of Synthetic Biology. His research interests are in synthetic biology, systems biology, single cell biology and applications.

College Page

Conference Talks

  • The 15th International Symposium on Phototrophic Prokaryotes, ISPP 2015: Plenary talk, Tubingen Germany 2-6th August 2015.
  • GRC, Conference: Renewable Energy: Solar Fuels: Invited talk. Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco in Lucca (Barga) Italy. 28th Feb – 4th Mar 2016.
  • 19th Chinese Conference on Light Scattering:Plenary lecture. Guangzhou, China, 1-4 December 2017.
  • SGM General Conference 2010: Birmingham, 10-13 April 2018.

Research Interests

Wei's research is focused on synthetic biology, systems biology and single cell Raman biotechnology.

His team aims to establish a novel bioengineering platform for synthetic biology – SimCells (Simple Cells). A SimCell is a genetically reprogrammable “artificial cellular machine”, originally derived from a natural cell. Its ‘hardware’ is the optimised ‘shell’ of a cell, which enables specific cellular properties; its ‘software’ is engineered mini-genome which delivers defined functions. The optimised shell and minigenome in SimCells enables them to faithfully dedicate most of their energy and resources to a specific function without interference from unwanted pathways and networks, as in natural cells. A SimCell is a non-dividing, biochemically active, designable and simplified agent, which can be continuously produced by engineered parent cells. SimCells have the potential to open up a new frontier, enabling the development of new and smart materials for bioprocessing and manufacturing, bioenergy, healthcare, agriculture and environmental monitoring and protection.

He is one of the pioneers on single cell Raman biotechnology, developing Raman-stable isotope probing (Raman-SIP), Raman-fluorescent in-situ hybridisation (Raman-FISH) and Raman activated cell sorting (RACS) system, which can be used to characterise bacterial function and link phenotypes to genotypes of single cells. The single cell Raman technology has been licensed to industry for applications.

This research will transform current synthetic biology based on living cells or cell-free system by providing an artificial cellular machine between living and non-living systems, and leveraging advantages of both. SimCells have been used as novel biosensors for medical diagnosis and therapy, and as miniature factories for green energy. Safe deliverable probiotic SimCells have been developed to perform dose response activation of genes for therapeutic purpose. A bio-transformation system can be designed and constructed to produce biofuels from H2O and CO2, mediated by SimCells and powered by electrons and sunlight.

Current Grants

EPSRC, Fellowship for synthetic biology

PI, £1.0M, 2014-2019

Development of SimCells as building blocks for synthetic biology. EP/M002403/1.


Co-I, £430,764, 2018-2020

Effector gene persistence in bacterial plant pathogens. BB/R009236/1.


Co-I, sLoLa, £3.4M, 2015-2020.

Engineering new capacities for solar energy utilisation in bacteria. BB/M000265/1.


Co-I, £2.36M, 2016-2020.

Liquid Fuel and bioEnergy Supply from CO2 Reduction. EP/N009746/1.


Co-I, £100,449, 2018-2021.

Seedcorn. NE/S008721/1

Selected Publications

A full list of publications can be found on the Synthetic Biology and Single Cell Biotechnology Group website.

Jing, X., Gou, H., Gong, Y., Su, X., Xu, L. Ji, Y. Song, Y., Thompson, I.P., Xu, J. Huang, W.E.* (2018) Raman-activated cell sorting and metagenomic sequencing revealing carbon-fixing bacteria in the ocean. Environmental Microbiology 20:2241-2255.

Rampley, C.P.N., Davison, P.A., Qian, P., Preston, G.M., Hunter, C.N., Thompson, P.I., Wu, L.J., Huang, W.E.* (2017) Development of SimCells as a novel chassis for functional biosensors. Scientific Reports 7:7261.

Song, Y., Kaster, A., Vollmers, J., Song, Y., Davison, P.A., Frentrup, M., Preston, G.M., Thompson, I.P., Murrell, J.C., Yin, H., Hunter, C.N., Huang, W.E.* (2017) Single cell genomics based on Raman sorting reveals novel carotenoid-containing bacteria in the Red Sea. Microbial Biotechnology. 10:125-137.(Top 1% highly cited paper by Web of Science).

Berry D, Mader E, Woebken D, Wang Y, Zhu D, Lee TK, Palatinszky M, Schintlmeister A, Schmid M, Shterzer N, Mizrahi I, Rauch I, Decker T, Bocklitzg T, Popp J, Gibson CM, Fowler PW, Huang WE, Wagner M (2015) Heavy water (D2O) incorporation as a universally applicable activity marker for microbial communities with single cell resolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 112: 112:E194-203. (Top 1% highly cited paper by Web of Science)

Zhang, D., Berry, J.P., Zhu, D., Wang, Y., Chen, Y., Jiang, B., Huang, S., Langford, H., Li, G., Xu, J., Aries, E. and Huang, W.E.* (2015) Isolation and physiological characterisation of an uncultured degrader in a complex microbial community. ISME Journal 9:603-614.

Zhang, D., Zhao, Y, He, Y, Wang, Y. Zhao, Y, Zheng, Y., Wei, X., Zhang,L., Li, Y., Jin, T., Wu, L., Wang, H., Davison, P.A., Xu, J. and Huang, W.E.* (2012) Characterization and Modeling of Transcriptional Cross-Regulation in Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1. ACS Synthetic Biology 1:274–283.

Li M, Canniffe DP, Jackson PJ, Davison PA, FitzGerald S, Dickman MJ, Burgess JG, Hunter CN & Huang WE* (2012) Rapid resonance Raman microspectroscopy to probe carbon dioxide fixation by single cells in microbial communities. ISME Journal 6:875-885.

Huang WE*, Ferguson A, Singer AC, Lawson K, Thompson IP, Kalin RM, Larkin MJ, Bailey MJ & Whiteley AS (2009) Resolving genetic functions within microbial populations: In situ analyses using rRNA and mRNA stable isotope probing coupled with single-cell Raman-fluorescence in situ hybridization. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 75:234-241.

Song Y, Li G, Thornton SF, Thompson IP, Banwart SA, Lerner DN & Huang WE* (2009) Optimization of bacterial whole cell bioreporters for toxicity assay of environmental samples. Environmental Science and Technology 43:7931-7938.

Huang, W.E.*, Singer, A.C., Spiers A.J., Preston G.M. and Whiteley A.S. (2008) Characterizing the regulation of the Pu promoter in Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1. Environmental Microbiology 10:1668-1680.

Huang WE, Stoecker K, Griffiths R, Newbold L, Daims H, Whiteley A & Wagner M (2007) Raman-FISH: Combining stable-isotope Raman spectroscopy and fluorescence in situ hybridization for the single cell analysis of identity and function. Environmental Microbiology 9:1878-1889.

Song Y, Hahn T, Thompson IP, Mason TJ, Preston GM, Li G, Paniwnyk L & Huang WE* (2007) Ultrasound-mediated DNA transfer for bacteria. Nucleic Acids Research 35:e129.

Huang WE, Wang H, Zheng H, Huang L, Singer AC, Thompson IP & Whiteley AS (2005) Chromosomally located gene fusions constructed in Acinetobacter sp. ADP1 for the detection of salicylate. Environmental Microbiology 7:1339-1348.

Huang WE*, Griffiths RI, Thompson IP, Bailey MJ & Whiteley AS (2004) Raman microscopic analysis of single microbial cells. Analytical Chemistry 76:4452-4458.

*Corresponding author

DPhil Opportunities

I am currently open to supervising PhD students on synthetic biology and single cell biology