Headshot image of Victoria Haritos, Research Scientist

Dr Victoria Haritos.

Dr Victoria Haritos: enzyme catalyst development and metabolic pathway engineering for energy applications

Dr Victoria Haritos researches biocatalytic routes and metabolic pathways in microorganisms for efficient, low energy production of fuels and chemicals.

  • 5 August 2008 | Updated 3 March 2014

In this article

  1. Overview
  2. Publishing History

Overview

Page 1 of 2

Current activities

Dr Victoria Haritos is the leader of the Energy Biotechnology team; we investigate sustainable biological processes for the production of fuels and chemicals.

Our projects mostly combine molecular biology, biochemical, engineering and computational approaches.

  • Novel lignocellulose-degrading enzymes – particularly directed at linkages that require the highest energy to cleave using current technologies or are the slowest steps in the overall saccharification process.
  • Efficient CO2 capture from coal-fired power station flue gas using enzymes. We are developing new enzyme catalysts that are robust to the conditions in a flue gas absorber, high density immobilisation strategies to anchor the enzymes, and improving CO2 mass transfer rates into the capture solution.
  • Low cost, non-food fatty acids for biofuels production by manipulating lipid modification and accumulation pathways in microorganisms. Fatty acids are one of the most desirable feedstocks for fuels production but are relatively expensive. We are exploring ways to increase production and storage, and tailor fatty acid chain length for optimal fuel production.

These projects are conducted within CSIRO's Energy Flagship. Lignocellulose degrading enzymes and low cost fatty acids are part of the Sustainable Transport Fuels Stream which aims to increase the efficiency of conversion of plant materials like wood, leaves, straw into reduced costs for biofuels.

Lowering the cost of carbon dioxide capture from coal-fired power station flue gas is a difficult challenge and the Energy Biotechnology Team is investigating the use of enzymes in the process.

Enzymes are attractive because they can operate at very fast rates under mild conditions to conduct processes that may otherwise require high energy inputs.

This project forms part of the Carbon Capture and geological Storage Stream in the Energy Flagship.

Dr Haritos’ research group uses molecular biology to discover and engineer genes for biological processing and to study their structure and functions. They are also interested in the diversity and evolutionary relationship of the genes.

Background

Dr Haritos joined CSIRO Entomology in 1998 as a research scientist working the Stored Grain Research Laboratory.

She applied her research and regulatory experience in human and insect toxicology to the development of new and safer grain fumigants to replace the ozone-depleting chemical, methyl bromide.

In 2004, Dr Haritos established projects in novel protein biomaterials – silks and hydrogels –and novel lipid modifying genes discovered from insects and other invertebrates as part of the Crop Biofactories Initiative.

The investigation has lead to the discovery of the genes and proteins of several new classes of insect silks, unique adhesive proteins and lipid modifying and accumulation enzyme pathways.

Academic qualifications

Dr Haritos holds the following qualifications:

  • Bachelor of Science (Hons), University of Adelaide, 1983
  • Master of Applied Science (Toxicology), RMIT University, 1992
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Key Centre for Applied and Nutritional Toxicology, RMIT University, 2000.

Achievements

Dr Haritos has received the following CSIRO awards:

  • Service from Science, 2005. Dr Haritos lead a team that successfully developed a fast acting new fumigant VAPORMATE™, to protect grain from pest insects
  • One CSIRO Award, 2004, as a member of the team that successfully negotiated the Crop Biofactories Initiative.

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  • VAPORMATE™ is a trademark of BOC Limited.