Contact Professor David Cullen

Areas of expertise

  • Biosensors & Diagnostics
  • CBRN Focus Areas
  • Defence Sensors
  • Instrumentation, Sensors and Measurement Science
  • Space Systems


Professor David Cullen's original training was in biochemistry at the University of East Anglia. He developed an interest in biosensor and bioanalytical technology research and development during his PhD and postdoctoral studies at the University of Cambridge.

His initial academic appointment in the mid-nineties within the biotechnology activities at Cranfield University continued this work with applications in the medical and environmental sectors.

His involvement with the space sector began with a chance encounter with a member of the UK Beagle 2 Mars lander team and a discussion about environmental biosensors being relevant to detecting life on Mars. This discussion led to the proposing, selection and then development of the multiplexed immunoassay based Life Marker Chip instrument for the ESA ExoMars rover until the instrument de-selection during the major ExoMars mission revision in 2012.

Since then he has transferred to the Space Group in the School of Aerospace, Transport and Manufacturing at Cranfield University where he holds a professorial chair in Astrobiology and Space Biotechnology. He continues a range of activities involving the development of space relevant technology and instrumentation and especially within areas relevant to astrobiology and biosciences. Current applications include the exploitation of CubeSat spacecraft as platforms to perform microgravity and space radiation bioscience experiments and development of early in situ demonstrations of ISRU on Near Earth Asteroids via CubeSat payloads

Current activities

The development and application of biosensors, bio-diagnostics and related bio-analytical technologies is the theme of Prof Cullen's past and current research. During the past decade, his main focus has been the design and application of such technologies in the field of astrobiology and space systems.

Recent and current projects include:

Joint lead-investigator for the Life Marker Chip (LMC) experiment for evidence of life detection on Mars as part of ESA's ExoMars rover mission (STFC / UKSA funded).

Development of the Bioscience, Astrobiology, Medical and Materials science experiments on CubeSats (BAMMsat) concept to exploit CubeSat platforms for bioscience and materials sciences experiments in LEO and beyond (UKSA funded).

Application and development of suites of in situ life detection and characterisation techniques for subglacial environments at the Svartisen Subglacial Laboratory in the Norwegian Arctic, Leverett Glacier in Western Greenland and glacial and volcanic sites in Iceland (EPSRC funded).

Use of stratospheric balloon platforms to study life in the upper atmosphere including design, build and flight of the Cranfield Astrobiological Stratospheric Sampling Experiment (CASS*E) instrument - flown twice in 2010 (partially ESA funded) and design and use of lightweight, low-cost high altitude balloon (HAB) platforms.

Study to confirm survivability of immunoassay reagents in simulated and real space environments including via the LMC experiment on ESA's Biopan-6 / Foton-M3 low-Earth orbit mission.

Development of the Hypervelocity Artificial Meteoroid Experiment (HAM*E) mission concept that proposes to enter >500kg of artificial meteoroid material into the Earth's atmosphere at >11km/s to contribute understanding to the evolution of the Early Earth and the current threat of Near Earth Objects.

Technology transfer of bioanalytical activities from extreme environment applications to those in medical, environmental, security and defence applications - currently sample processing for solid tissue biopsy samples.

Public outreach activities including schools lectures and appearances on radio and TV.


  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • Science and Technology Facilities Council
  • UK Space Agency
  • European Commission
  • European Space Agency


Articles In Journals

Conference Papers