Host: Weizmann Institute, Israel
Supervisors: Prof. Sarel Fleishman (WI), Khersonsky (WI)
ESR 1: Design of nanobodies with tunable target affinities
“Our work as scientists is directed towards future innovations and technologies. By doing so, we have the chance to enable a better future for all living being on this planet.“
This project deals with understanding and leveraging the principles of molecular recognition of small molecules by enzymes to create new enzyme-based biosensors with computational design methodology. As a model system, we have chosen a class of monooxygenase enzymes called luciferases which are capable of converting chemical energy by biocatalysis into light of the visible spectrum. Hence, this class of enzymes is perfectly suited for establishing biosensor applications as it is directly coupling the phenomenon of small molecule recognition to an easy-to-measure output signal. In the past, a variety of luciferase-based reporter assays have been developed. Still, the intricate interplay between macromolecular structure and substrate specificity governing the biocatalytic functionality of luciferases is barely understood. Additionally, broadening our understanding of the underlying principles of enzyme substrate interactions in luciferases and utilizing them for biosensor engineering and design opens up new possibilities for application. We are aiming to illumate such principles of molecular recognition in luciferases by state-of-the-art computational protein design alogorithms and high-throughput experimental screening.
I was born in a small town in the north of Bavaria, Germany, called Lichtenfels. My personal interest in trying to help solving the most urgent problems of humanity as finding cure for devastating diseases or solutions to avoid the climate crisis motivated me to follow my scientific path. If I am not working on the lab bench, I am enjoying my free time with playing football and ultimate frisbee or mixing electronic music.
Since I started studying biochemistry at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany, I was fascinated by the complexity and beauty of protein structures and function. Over the years of my studies in Wuerzburg and during an internship at Imperial College London, I had the chance to observe this complexity and beauty of proteins from a variety of perspectives ranging from biomedical sciences to biophyics, from metabolic engineering to bioinformatics. I am strongly motivated to use this scientific background to improve the function of proteins for sustainable biotechnology and biosensor applications by computational design.