John Draper

Prof, B.Sc. and Ph.D.

  • Aberystwyth University
    Edward Llwyd Building

    United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

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Research activity per year

Personal profile


I have a background in Biotechnology and whilst previously in IBERS I was was responsible for oversight of Enabling Technologies  including core facilities for Metabolomics, Next Generation Sequencing, Plant Phenomics and Bioinformatics.  Associated with this role  I was seconded in 2015 to spearhead the development of the business case and a design for the Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus (AIEC; now AberInnovation).

More than 20 years ago I established the High Resolution Metabolomics Laboratory (HRML) in the Department of Life Sciences and more recently, with funding from the Welsh Government, have developed a bespoke laboratory to support nutritional quality analysis of food, including an in-vitro facility to mimic the human digestive system.  I am the lead academic in the Food, Diet and Health Research Team and was responsible for establishing the Well-being and Health Assessment Research Unit (WARU) to carry out food intervention trials investigating food functionality and dietary intake biomarker validation.

Research interests

From a technology perspective I am interested in the development of generic, high throughput phenotyping methodologies, based on global metabolite analysis (metabolomics) for use in a range of fields. My lab is concentrating on metabolite fingerprinting & profiling using high resolution mass spectrometry techniques coupled with HPC machine learning data analysis. I have established a range of collaborations with laboratories interested in the application of metabolomics technology in food, diet & nutrition research as well as in plant pathology.

In Aberystwyth we originally pioneered the development of high throughput methods (metabolite fingerprinting, data representation & data analysis) for compositional analysis & comparison of food raw materials with funding from the Food Standards Agency.   More recently, with support from the EU and Welsh Government, these analytical skills have been expanded to examine aspects of nutritional quality (e.g. vitamin profile, protein digestibility and lipid/fatty acid profile) and for food bioactive discovery/validation in a wide range of projects collaborative with industry aimed at improving the healthiness of new food and drink products.

Supported by the Medical Research Council and the EU my team has a major interest in the development of methodology for human metabolic phenotyping (metabotyping) and a specific interest in the development of biomarker technology to determine dietary exposure & individual responses to diet constituents in humans from blood & urine analysis. From a phenotypic perspective we are interested in metabolome perturbations associated with frailty risk in humans, particularly aspects associated with protein undernutrition and incipient sarcopenia.

From a fundamental research perspective my team has pioneered the development of Brachypodium distachyon as a new model system for plant functional genomics. Together with local & international collaborators we played a key role in collecting & characterizing Brachypodium distachyon germplasm in terms of karyotype, comparative genomics, tissue culture behaviour, transformation efficiency & pathogen interactions.

 Funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) my team has developed a metabolomics platform for both metabolite identification & high throughput phenotyping in grasses & cereals based on the Brachypodium metabolome. A practical application of this research focuses on a study of metabolic reprogramming in B. distachyon, rice & barley during the biotrophic phases of interaction with rice blast.

More recently, we have adapted this technology to examine metabolome changes during decline and disease in trees and have a particular interest in examining metabolism in the living tissues of the stem (phloem and sapwood).  We are currently members of a large BBSRC consortium investigating the phenomenon of Acute- and Chronic Decline Syndromes in UK oak species.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy


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