Research overview

Engineering next generation organisms for our future bioeconomy

Life has leveraged a finite set of building blocks in constructing biomolecules. Carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids possess complex chemical properties that emerge from just a few unique monomeric units. My group's research aims to utilize fundamental approaches in synthetic biology, chemical biology, biosynthesis, and biomolecular engineering for reprogramming life. The goal is to both extend the amino acid, nucleic acid, and carbohydrates building blocks available in living systems for biosynthesis and to use newly expanded metabolism for producing biomolecules with unique chemical and physical properties. Our mission: to engineer organisms that will support the production of next-generation biochemicals and biomolecules.
Research fields: synthetic biology, biomolecular engineering, chemical biology, natural product discovery, biochemistry, chemical engineering, genetic engineering
xenobiology
Discovering unusual biochemistry In the fringe corners of Nature, we can find organisms that are capable of making unusual building blocks (lipids, amino acids, nucleic acids, sugars) for life. In this area, my group is reverse engineering biosynthetic pathways that can be repurposed in industrial hosts to expand or enhance the function of biomolecules. researchA
Expanding genetic information storage Non-standard nucleic acids (beyond ATGC for DNA; AUGC for RNA) can form the basis for new genetic systems and also offer us a biosynthetic route towards making nucleic acid-based therapeutics. My group is discovering and engineering pathways to make (and use) a variety of non-standard bases in living organisms. researchB
Engineering novel biomolecular machines My group will tackle strategies for adapting a large repetoir of nucleic acid-based sensors, -switches, and -zymes as a functional tools that can work in living cells. Towards this goal, we are developing new high-throughput, NGS based screens to discover and evolve these biomolecular machines. xenobiology