Developing selection systems for directed evolution

Directed evolution is a powerful tool for engineering biological macromolecules. Selection systems play a central role in distinguishing improved protein variants from mutants with no improvements. The more efficient the systems, the more likely we can identify interesting variants. Existing selection systems for directed evolution suffer from several limitations, such as low dynamic range and low throughput. We aim at tackling these underlying problems in order to develop selection systems that would allow us to rapidly engineer any proteins with desired properties.

Engineering proteins for medical and industrial applications

Nature has provided all living systems with a myriad of proteins that are essential for survival in different conditions on earth. Through recombinant DNA technologies, these proteins can be produced for many different applications, ranging from medicine, to agriculture, to manufacture. Exploiting these biological gold mines, however, faces a couple of challenges, including low protein production yields in heterologous hosts and native properties not suitable for these applications. We are interested in employing directed evolution as well as other approaches to engineer proteins and optimize their production for a variety of applications.

Creating genetic toolkits for synthetic biology research

The foundation of synthetic biology is built upon combining several 'parts' to form programmable circuits. The availability of well-chracterized and orthogonal biological parts, such as sensors, reporters, promoters, terminators, ribosome binding sites, riboregulators, and ribioswitches, are, however, very limited. We are taking the directed evolution approach to engineer natural genetic elements in order to tailor their activities and create toolkits for applications in synthetic biology.

Bacteriocins: screening, characterization, and engineering

Multicellular organisms and the environment are homes to a wealth of beneficial yet underutilized microbes. Some of which can produce a diverse group of ribosomally synthesized antimicrobial proteins and peptides, or bacteriocins. Due to their structural and functional diversity, bacteriocins represent promising bioactive compounds that can be used in this era of multidrug-resistant bacteria. Our group has been actively screening microbes from different sources for bacteriocin-producing bacteria. We are taking different approaches to develop microbial strains and optimize bacteriocins for medicine as well as agricultural and food industries.