Ellis O'Neill

Ellis O'Neill

Non-Stipendiary Junior Research Fellow (New College) and Violette and Samuel Glasstone Independent Research Fellow (Department of Plant Sciences)
Plant Sciences
MA (Cantab), PhD (UEA)

Ellis holds a Violette and Samuel Glasstone Independent Research Fellowship in the Department of Plant Sciences working on drug discovery in algae. Prior to joining Oxford University he worked at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego, USA, working on engineering the biosynthesis of antibiotics and natural products. Ellis’s PhD was undertaken at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, focusing on the enzymology and synthesis of carbohydrates; his undergraduate degree was in Natural Sciences, at the University of Cambridge, specialising in Plant and Microbial Sciences.


Ellis takes tutorials on cellular and biochemical aspects of the Biological Sciences undergraduate.

Research Interests

The focus of Ellis’s research is on the potential of algae to make natural products, such as antibiotics, and on developing tools to engineer the production of these valuable compounds in algal cells. Because algae can photosynthesise and grow on simple medium, a large amount of biomass can be generated from minimal inputs. They also have to make all the complex molecules they need to survive and to fight off competitors. By studying how these molecules are made in algae, Ellis will look for new compounds and engineer the existing pathways to produce valuable pharmaceuticals.

Selected Publications

O’Neill, E.C., Saalbach, G., and Field, R. A. (2016) Gene discovery for synthetic biology: Exploring the novel natural product biosynthetic capacity of eukaryotic microalgae. Methods in Enzymology 276, 99-120

O'Neill, E. C., Stevenson, C. E., Tantanarat, K., Latousakis, D., Donaldson, M. I., Rejzek, M., Nepogodiev, S. A., Limpaseni, T., Field, R. A., and Lawson, D. M. (2015)Structural dissection of the maltodextrin disproportionation cycle of the Arabidopsis plastidial enzyme DPE1. Journal of Biological Chemistry 290, 29834

O'Neill, E. C., Trick, M., Hill, L., Rejzek, M., Dusi, R. G., Hamilton, C. J., Zimba, P. V., Henrissat, B., and Field, R. A. (2015) The transcriptome of Euglena gracilis reveals unexpected metabolic capabilities for carbohydrate and natural product biochemistry. Molecular Biosystems 11, 2808-2820

O'Neill, E. C., Rashid, A. M., Stevenson, C. E. M., Hetru, A.-C., Gunning, A. P., Rejzek, M., Nepogodiev, S. A., Bornemann, S., Lawson, D. M., and Field, R. A. (2014) Sugar-coated sensor chip and nanoparticle surfaces for the in vitro enzymatic synthesis of starch-like materials. Chemical Science 5, 341-350 



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