My group designs and engineers proteins. The advent of next-generation sequencing has presented protein scientists with the ability to economically observe entire populations of molecules before, during, and after a high-throughput screen or selection for function. My group leverages this unprecedented wealth of sequence-function information to address key gaps and important fundamental and applied grand challenges in innovative ways:
- Design and engineering of protein affinity, specificity, and function. Proteins are designable agents in medicine as shown by the incredible success of antibody and pro-drug enzyme therapies. We have enhanced the efficiency of programming specificity, affinity, and stability into proteins.
- Identifying functional constraints on the evolvability of protein sequences. We have investigated fundamental trade-offs between enzyme activity and solubility and sequence determinants to enzyme specificity. We are applying these insights to understand why and how certain protective antibodies can be elicited for vaccines against viruses like Dengue, HIV, and Influenza.
- Plant synthetic biology. In collaboration with some of the world’s best plant scientists, we are developing plant sense and respond modules that can turn on and off developmental pathways and metabolism using external, readily available chemicals.
- We develop enzymes and microbes for converting renewable biomass to value-added chemicals and bioproducts.