Our research focuses on applying protein engineering and metabolic engineering tools to solve a variety of important problems in bioengineering. Protein engineering involves the modification of proteins and peptides in order to produce new molecules with novel traits or functions. Metabolic engineering refers to the characterization and improvement of networks of enzymes to obtain desired new goals. These pursuits can be used to bring about new solutions to problems in biotechnology, nanotechnology, biomedical engineering, bioprocess engineering, and drug discovery.
One of our current research interests involves the engineering of peptide conformational changes. Peptide motifs have been evolved to respond to changes in their environment through alterations in their corresponding structures.We are interested in engineering new stimulus-responsive peptides that respond to novel environmental cues.These new peptides will be useful in many applications including tissue engineering, protein purification, bioremediation, drug delivery, and bionanotechnology.
Another area of interest is the engineering of peptides for targeted drug delivery. A new class of peptides has recently been discovered that are capable of directing the transport of materials across cellular membranes but they lack cell type specificity.We are engineering new peptides that are specific for different tissues and organs. For example, peptides that can cross the blood brain barrier and target specific brain cell populations will be valuable for the treatment of several central nervous system disorders.
Finally, we have an ongoing interest in the interface between protein engineering and electrochemistry.Biofuel cells are devices that use enzymes to produce electricity from biological fuels.We are also interested in biosensors that incorporate proteins and peptides for the robust and specific detection of targeted analytes.There are many opportunities to engineer the properties of these proteins and peptides such that their interface with electrochemical systems is enhanced.