Professor Chris Franco

Professor Head of Department

College of Medicine and Public Health

place Health Sciences Building (4.19)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

Professor Christopher Franco's research career combines both the industrial and academic spheres. For 10 years he lead a successful drug discovery and development group in an International biopharmaceutical company and holds patents for 11 compound families. In 1993, he joined the School of Medicine, as a founding academic in the Biotechnology Program. Now Head, Medical Biotechnology, he manages the Biotechnology teaching and research programs in the School of Medicine. He is Australia's leading actinobacteriologist and continues to discover novel actinobacteria and new bioactives from algae, plant cell culture, mammalian cells and marine organisms. He pioneered the isolation and application of actinobacterial endopytes for sustainable crop production and leads GRDC's multi-insitutional Benificial Microbes Project.

He has extensive international experience, working in the UK, Germany, India, Indonesia, Singapore and China. As International Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences and the School of Medicine, he manages the Faculty's international collaborations. He collaborates with researchers in Asia, Europe and N. America.

Qualifications

B.Sc. (Hons.) Microbiology (Bombay), 1975
M.Sc. Applied Microbiology (Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh), 1976
Ph.D. Applied Microbiology (Strathclyde, Glasgow), 1980

Honours, awards and grants

Distiller's Company PhD Scholarship, UK, 1976 -1979

Prof Franco was awarded a UNESCO Biotechnology Action Committee Professorship in 2000.

He was awarded the prestigious Australian Eureka Prize 2004: GRDC Award for Environmental Sustainability of Grain Growing
for his research on applications of actinomycete endophytes.

Key responsibilities

Professor of Biotechnology and Head, Medical Biotechnology, College of Medicine & Public Health, Flinders University. Leads a research and teaching active discipline which has over 50 staff and research students, and supervises 6 PhD, 2 Masters, 1 Honours student and 6 research staff.

Course Coordinator, Postgraduate Biotechnology Programs

Chair of the Course Review Committees for Environmental Health (2011); Master of Nanotechnology (2014); and Master of Health and International Development (2015)

Member of the ISBA Actinomycete International Advisory Commitee

Head GRDC's Beneficial Microbes Program.

Research expertise
Agricultural biotechnology
Biochemistry and cell biology
Ecology
Environmental biotechnology
Industrial biotechnology
Medical biotechnology
Microbiology
Research interests

Details of Research projects:

Actinomycetes and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology

  • Strategies for the isolation of novel actinobacteria
  • Discovery of novel microbial metabolites
  • Actinomycete ecology and characterisation
  • Molecular biology techniques in biodiversity
  • Actinobacterial endophytes- pharmaceutical and agricultural applications

Bioprocessing

  • Fermentation technology of microbial and plant cells
  • Expression and manipulation of secondary metabolism
  • Purification and characterisation of actinobacterial compounds
  • Bioprocessing for functional foods and cosmeceuticals
  • Biofuels and renewable energy

Marine Biotechnology

  • Bioactives from seaweed, sponge and sea cucumbers
  • Prebiotic evaluation of seaweed and seaweed components
  • Value addition to fish processing co-products
  • Sponge-bacterial interactions

External Research Collaborations

  • Chris Dunlap (USDA- NRRL) on NGS of wheat growing ecosystems
  • Anil Sharma, Pantnagar, and Gupta Vadakattu, CSIRO, Adelaide . Australia india Strategic Research Fund on wheat microbiome to counter drought stress.
  • Yonghua Zhu, Hunan University. GM Rice -environmental impact
  • Steve Barnett, Ross Ballard (SARDI) and Lambert Brau (Murdoch Univ). GRDC Beneficial Microbes Programs 1 and 2.
  • Qingdao Great Gather Ocean Group, Qingdao, on new products from Sea weed.
  • Ross Ballard & Dr Liz Drew (SARDI), Interactions of Beneficial Microbes
  • Calum Wilson & Robert Teeg (Univ. Tasmania). HAL: Application of Actinobacterial endophytes for potato cultivation and disease control.
  • Eileen Scott & Amanda Able (Univ Adelaide) on Control of Phytophtora. Co-supervision of PhD candidate.
  • Gupta Vadakattu, CSIRO Ecosystems, Adelaide, Co-supervision of Research Higher degree students
  • Ern Lacey, MST Sydney, on Screening and production of new actinoband molecular acterial metabolites.
  • Margaret Roper, CSIRO Plant Industries, Perth, on Plant-associated microorganisms for improved grain yield. Co-Investigator on GRDC grant.
  • Rose Loria, Dept Plant Pathology, Cornell University, on Molecular interactions of actinomycete endophytes.
  • CRC for Seafood, with Simplot Australia and Tasmanian Seafoods on Seafood co-product utilisation and sea cuucmber
Teaching interests

Industrial Biotechnology:

  • Selection and characterisation of industrial microorganisms
  • Fermentation technology and bioprocessing
  • Plant cell culture for the production of medicinal compounds
  • Primary and secondary metabolites

Pharmaceutical Biotechnology:

  • Natural product drugs
  • Drug discovery, high throughput screening
  • Yield optimisation of pharmaceutical-produciing microorganisms
  • Purification of drug molecules
  • cGMP

Agricultural and Environmental Biotechnology:

  • Molecular detection of environmental microbes
  • Endophytic and other plant associated microorganisms
  • Actinomycete, bacterial and fungal inoculants including biocontrol agents
  • Plant microbe interactions including induced systemic resistance

Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship:

Takes students through the Discovery to Market for Biotechnology products and services.

Topic coordinator
BTEC2001 Biotechnology: From Bench to Community
BTEC9006 Professional Skills in Biotechnology
BTEC8001 Biobusiness
Topic lecturer
BTEC9006 Professional Skills for Biotechnology
BTEC9008 Industrial & Pharmaceutical Biotechnology GE
BTEC1001 Introduction to Biotechnology
MDSC3001 Medical Skills 3
BTEC8001 Biobusiness
BTEC9002 Molecular Biotechnology
BTEC3007 Industrial & Pharmaceutical Biotechnology
BTEC2001 Biotechnology: From Bench to Community
Supervisory interests
Actinobacterial discovery
Actinobacterial endophytes
Bioactive natural products
Biocontrol agents
Bioprocess technology
Industrial microorganisms
Microbial diversity
Molecular plant cell-based bioprocessing
Pharmaceutical biotechnology and natural product drug discovery
Higher degree by research supervision
Current
Principal supervisor: Endophytic actinobacterIal applications in agriculture (1), Enhancement of Microlagal production of carotenoids and lipids (1), Actinobacterial applications for Drug Discovery (2), Enzyme discovery and characterisation for seaweed processing (1), Induction of antibotic production (1), Molecular Characterisation of Marine Sponges and their Microbial Populations
Associate supervisor: Prebiotic evaluation of seawed and components (1)
Completion
Principal supervisor: Actinobacterial endophyte function and ecology (4), Optimising Plant Cell culture (6), Actinobacterial discovery, taxonomy and application (5), Bioprocessing (4), Actinobacterial endophyte function and ecology (6), Discovery of novel compounds from sea cucumber viscera — Principal (1)
Higher degree by research student achievements
Qi Yang

People's choice award -3MT competition - AUG 2013

Publications
Expert for media contact
Biofuels
Biotechnology
Fermentation Technology
Actinomycete Biology
Environmental Biotechnology and Biodiversity
Industrial Biotechnology
Available for contact via
Or contact the media team
+61 8 82012092
0427 398 713
Media expertise
  • Biofuels
  • Biotechnology
  • Fermentation Technology
Interests
  • Actinomycete Biology
  • Environmental Biotechnology and Biodiversity
  • Industrial Biotechnology
Further information

Previous Employment:

1991-93: Research Fellow, Dept. of Soil Science, Waite Institute, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, with Prof Malcolm Oades& Dr Max Tate. Research on remediation of soil water repellency. Teaching in Agricultural Biotechnology.

1982-91: Principal Research Scientist, Hoechst AG, Pharmaceutical Research, India & Germany. A senior research management position in a multinational pharmaceutical company in drug discovery and pharmaceutical product development.

1981: Postdoctoral Fellow, Microbiology Department University of Tübingen, Germany with Prof. Hans Zähner. Research in the Institute of Biology on developing new biological and chemical screening systems for the detection of novel microbial metabolites from microorganisms.

1979-81: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Microbial Chemistry Lab., University of Manchester, UK, with Prof John Bu-Lock. Optimization of fermenter design for methanogenesis.

FROM JULY 2017:

Head of Medical Biotechnology

UNTIL JUNE 2017:

Committee Membership

University-wide

  • International Advisory Committee
  • Biotechnology Exec Cttee
  • Biotechnology Program Management Cttee & Biotechnology Exam Board
  • Biotechnology Advisory Cttee
  • Steering Cttee of the Joint Research and Education Centre with Central South University, Changsha, China

Faculty

  • Assoc Head (International) and Chair, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences International Program Cttee
  • Strategic Advisory Cttee, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences
  • Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences Board
  • Faculty Research Higher Degree Cttee
  • Faculty Research Committee

Department/School

  • Assistant Dean (International), School of Medicine
  • School of Medicine Executive Committee
  • Departmental Executive Cttee
  • Flinders Medical Science and Technology Executive Cttee, School of Medicine

Course Reviews

  • Chair, Bachelor of Environmental Health, 2010
  • Chair, Master of Nanotechnology, 2012
  • Chair, Master of Health & International Development, 2015

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