Evolving Synthetic Proteins and Studying the Origin of Life
Our research group implements Darwinian molecular evolution in a test tube to:
(A) Generate novel proteins for synthetic biology and biomedical applications
(B) Study the origin and evolution of functional proteins
(C) Investigate the history of the genetic code
We apply methods of in vitro and in vivo selection and evolution to generate de novo proteins with custom-made properties. We also tailor existing enzymes to a variety of useful applications. We established a general method to design novel enzymes from scratch - enzymes that have not been found in nature. This method is based on the mRNA display technology, which enables us to search for new enzymes in libraries of trillions of protein variants in a single experiment. These library complexities are well beyond the limits of conventional screening technologies.
Our projects comprise both applied and basic research. One objective of our work is to create enzymes as 'designer catalysts' to harness the power of enzymes for the synthesis of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and for biomedical applications. In addition, we study our new proteins in detail to help elucidate fundamental principles of biocatalysis, protein evolution and the origin of the genetic code.
The research carried out in our lab combines a number of different disciplines, including molecular biology, biochemistry, organic chemistry and protein engineering.