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Dr Alexander Darlington

Academic profile photograph

Dr Alexander Darlington

Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow

Assistant Professor in Control and Engineering Biology

A dot Darlington dot 1 at warwick dot ac dot uk

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Synthetic biology and microbial biotechnology offer sustainable routes to the manufacturer of commodity and high value chemicals from agricultural by-products instead of petrochemical feedstocks. However, at present the production of industrial strains is a time intensive and expensive process requiring multiple rounds of experimentation and redesign. A key cause of this is our difficulty in predicting the impact of the novel pathways on the host metabolism and wider physiology. Pathway enzyme production utilises the host gene expression machinery and drains host nucleotide and amino acid pools, while engineered pathways drain key metabolites from central carbon metabolism (as well as nucleotides and amino acids). These interactions perturb the host’s homeostasis, resulting in changes to resource supply which do not benefit either pathway performance or host growth. In addition to these internal constraints, these microbial ‘cell factories’ are subjected to industrial constraints including environmental heterogeneity, fermentation strategy, and cost.

Our group aims to tackle these roadblocks to industrialization of synthetic biology by developing quantitative mathematical models that can inform and guide the engineering of biological systems. We develop models which combine metabolism, gene expression and microbial growth to understand how these multiple dynamic constraints emerge over the course of population growth during industrial production processes and how they impact the function of engineered gene circuits and pathways. We are working with academic and industrial partners to extend these modelling frameworks beyond the lab workhorse E. coli into industrially relevant strains to optimise real world bioprocesses. Within this framework we embed real world industrially relevant metabolic pathways and use mathematical techniques to identify key bottlenecks which limit their performance. Using this knowledge, we design control strategies which dynamically balance growth and production to improve efficiency and yield of these pathways. Our group works closely with experimental colleagues to validate model predictions in vivo and implement the new design strategies we identify.

Group news

Feb 2024. We are delighted to be able to announce we are to receive a UKRI Engineering Biology Mission Award to engineering autonomous cell factories - you can read the University Press Release here! Posts will be advertised soon so get in touch!

Jan 2024. We are hiring a mathematical modeller to join our project on engineering biosynthetic pathways with Prof John McCarthy! Get in touch to find our more!

Dec 2023. Dan presented his work at this year's CDC! Congratulations!

Oct 2023. Maddy's Story and Amelia's Story from their internships as part of WMG and Engineering's IAPER Project are now published. We're pleased to have supported this important initiative to widen participation in research and create an inclusive research culture.

Aug 2023. We've had a busy August with Alisa presenting a poster at Yeast 2023, Dan also showcasing a poster at SwissUK Synbio (a great conference I also attended!) and Mohammad taking part in a workshop on the Fundamentals of Metrology in engineering biology!

Aug 2023. Delighted to announce that our Enhancing Research Culture project "Open sourcing engineering biology through undergraduate research" with Dr Fabrizio Alberti has been selected for funding. We'll be recruiting a couple of undergraduate to work on reproducibility in science next summer aligned to our 2024 iGEM team!

July 2023. We've had two papers accepted for presentation at this year's IEEE CDC in December. Congratulations to Dan on his first conference paper!

June 2023. Welcome to Luca Kollmer and Maddy Rolls who will getting a taste of research by working in the group over the summer.

May 2023. We are delighted to welcome Mohammad Khaleghi to the group for his PhD. Mohammad will be developing new design frameworks for engineering microbial cell factories!

Apr 2023. Exciting meeting with Warwick's iGEM team this month - what this space!

Mar 2023. Our minisymposium for SIAM CT23 on control paradigms across physiological systems is accepted! Thank you to Francesco Montefusico of University of Naples for organising!

Feb 2023. Great to speak to Warwick's MathSys CDT students about modelling in biological systems. Warwick's 2023 iGEM team is also formed - you can keep up with the team on Twitter.

Jan 2023. Delighted to virtually speak to graduate students at Kyungpook National University (Republic of Korea) about our working designing control strategies for biotech.

Dec 2022. We are delighted to welcome Alisa Nira to the group. Alisa is primarily working with Prof. John McCarthy in SLS on engineering metabolic pathways in S. cerevisiae.

Nov 2022. Great to meet colleagues from across Europe at ASBE VI in Edinburgh! We also have new funded PhD projects available see adverts here and here. Get in touch to discuss!

Oct 2022. Congratulations to Warwick's 2022 iGEM team whose interdisciplinary engineering project was nominated for the Best Environmental Poject and won a Gold Medal at this year's iGEM Jamboree in Paris!

Oct 2022. Delighted to welcome Dan Byrom, as our first PhD student, to the group. Dan will be developing new methods to predict modes of synthetic genetic circuit failure and improve performance. Welcome also to Imogen and Zak who are joining us for their BEng projects.

Sept 2022. The latest EUTOPIA pan-European Science and Innovation Fellowships has been issued. If you're a PhD finalist or post-doc look to develop an independent project at the interface of systems engineering and biology then get in touch! Call details.

Sept 2022. Great visit to South Korea, including KNU, IBS and POSTECH, to discuss projects with new and old collaborators.

Jun 2022. Delighted to present our work on host-circuit interaction controllers at this year's European Control Conference.

Jun 2022. Great to hear all the exciting talks by ECR's today at the HVBNet workshop.

Jun 2022. Great to present our latest work on biotechnology control strategies at University of Oxford

May 2022. First meetings with this year's iGEM team -- exciting ideas you can keep up with the team here.

Apr 2022. Applications for the BBSRC HVBNet ECR “An Early Career Researcher Toolkit for the Bioeconomy” Workshop we are co-organising are open -- apply online at High Value Biorenewables.

Mar 2022. Our paper for ECC2022 has been accepted. Looking forward to discussing our work this summer.

Feb 2022. Great to discuss RRI issues surrounding biotech innovation at CoBioTech's workshops.

Jan 2022. MIBTP have announced new PhD studentships to start in October 2022. Get in touch to discuss potential projects.

Nov 2021. Great visit to new and old collaborators at Imperial and present our research plans for the coming year.

Oct 2021. We have funded PhD studentships across systems engineering and biotechnology. Get in touch to discuss potential projects.

Sept 2021. Dr Darlington starts his RAEng Research Fellowship, awarded earlier this year.

Teaching Interests

ES101: Introduction to Engineering Professionalism and Practise

ES2C1: Introduction to Biomedical and Clinical Engineering

ES97J: Computational Systems and Synthetic Biology

BEng thesis supervision (ES327)



2023. Assistant Professor in Control and Engineering Biology, University of Warwick

2021. Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow, University of Warwick

2020. BBSRC Innovation Fellow with Ingenza Ltd.

2018-2021. Postdoctoral Research Associate with Prof. Declan Bates, University of Warwick

2018. PhD Engineering, University of Warwick

2015. Post-graduate training programme in Synthetic Biology, Universities of Oxford and Warwick

2015. MSci Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge

Member of IEEE, Member of the Biochemical Society, Member of the International Metabolic Engineering Society.


Contact Details


D219, Engineering


Postal address

School of Engineering, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL

UG office hours

Wednesdays 10-11 am during terms or by appointment