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“Engineering Biology to Make Novel Medicines”

Seminar: BioE Seminars: Seminars of interest | March 2 | 12-1 p.m. |  Sibley Auditorium, Bechtel Engineering Center

César de la Fuente-Nunez, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Bioengineering (BioE)

Proteins perform the cellular tasks required for life. The great variety of their biological activity is due in part to their vast combinatorial space: 20n, n being the number of amino acids present in any given peptide chain and 20 being the number of natural amino acid monomer building blocks. Yet we do not have the tools to properly engineer these diverse molecules. One approach is to start small: I will present foundational synthetic biology frameworks to rationally develop peptides, tiny proteins that display great sequence diversity but are more amenable than larger molecules to redesign and engineering. My approach is to expand nature’s repertoire to build novel synthetic peptides with extremely useful properties. My overarching vision is to generate a peptide encyclopedia encompassing peptides that target every medically relevant microbe and to devise therapies that nature has not previously discovered. The synthetic peptides that I am developing offer solutions to some of the most pressing unmet clinical challenges we face, ranging from finding strategies for treating antibiotic-resistant infections to engineering the human microbiome.