ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology


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6, Apr 2021

Biosensors to be a winemaker’s aide

Chief Investigator Professor Kirill Alexandrov is leading a collaborative research project to mitigate the impacts of bushfire smoke on wineries and vineyards. 

Professor Kirill Alexandrov (QUT), Professor Markus Herderich (Australian Wine Research Institute, Dr Zhong Guo (QUT)  and Dr Charlotte Williams (CSIRO) have been awarded $261,931 for the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage project which helps industry and academics solve practical challenges. 

The team will innovative ways of detecting ‘smoke taint’ – an unpleasant medicinal taste that renders wine undrinkable when grapes are contaminated by smoke from bushfires and controlled burns.  

“The research team will apply a combination of organic synthesis, protein engineering and directed evolution to develop protein-based biosensors of phenolic glucosides. These biosensors will be used to devise a simple portable test that can be performed in the vineyard or the winery,” Professor Alexandrov said.   

The test will rapidly determine the level of grape contamination and will provide wine growers and wine makers with a powerful tool to mitigate the effects of smoke taint.  

“The test will ameliorate a major problem affecting wine growers and wine makers by enabling them to make better informed harvesting and processing decisions. For example, they may use the grapes to make spirits instead of wine.”  

“The project is a result of close collaboration between CSIRO and QUT teams with scientists from Australian Wine Research Institute,” Professor Alexandrov said.   

“We are very excited that the protein biosensor technology developed in our group will be used to address an important problem of the flagship Australian industry,” Dr Guo said.   

Molecular Warehouse Ltd – a coESB partner company that commercialises artificial allosteric protein biosensors for diagnostic and analytic use – will collaborate with the research team.