Synthetic and Chemical Biology

Through our ground-breaking research in synthetic and chemical biology we are tapping into the power of natural molecule and assembling them to make new, more complex compounds.

Our research is focused on the chemistry and biochemistry of enzyme-catalysed reactions, with the broad aim of aiding the development of new treatments for diseases and using the natural biosynthetic machinery for the efficient generation of valuable products. Using a variety of computational and experimental approaches we are also seeking to increase our understanding the molecular details of communication networks in proteins.

The Chemical and Synthetic Biology Research Group at Ferrier is led by Professor Emily Parker.

Enzyme allosteric regulation

It is important to understand the mechanisms of the natural regulation of enzyme activities, and the communication between distant sites within a protein molecule. For this research we employ a combined approach of computational methods (e.g. molecular dynamic simulations) with molecular biology experiments, and we have investigated a range of allosteric regulation strategies adopted by enzymes from amino acid biosynthetic pathways in bacteria.

Current research projects

Investigations of allosteric regulation mechanisms in:

  • a-isopropylmalate synthase (IPMS)
  • 3-deoxy-d-arabino heptulosonate-7-phosphate synthase (DAH7PS)
  • Adenosine triphosphate phosphoribosyltransferase (ATP-PRT)

Staff and students

  • Staff: Effie Fan, Wanting Jiao
  • PhD students: Yu Bai, Parastoo Khajeaian, Mohammad Firoozinia, Michael Weusten, Oliver Sterritt, Fiona Given

Collaborators

Enzyme catalysis, transition states and inhibitor design

We are interested in enzyme catalysed reaction mechanisms, specifically the transition states of these reactions. We use a range of techniques to decipher the structure of the transition states, including kinetic isotope effect (KIE) experiments as well as computational methods such as QM and QM/MM calculations. We aim to utilise our findings from studying enzyme catalysis and regulation, to rationally design inhibitor compounds targeting either the active site o allosteric site of specific enzymes, that could lead to potential new treatments of infectious diseases. We design highly potent compounds that mimic the transition states of the enzymic reactions, and also conduct virtual screening of large compound libraries to identify lead compounds for further improvement of potency.

Current research projects

Reaction mechanism and transition state and transition state mimicking inhibitors for

  • Adenosine triphosphate phosphoribosyltransferase (ATP-PRT)
  • Anthranilate phosphoribosyl transferase (TrpD)

Staff and students

Collaborators

Microbial Factories

We have developed a powerful new synthetic biology platform (MIDAS) for the rapid and optimisable delivery of valuable natural products and their derivatives. Our main aim is to assemble biosynthetic machineries to create efficient, scalable microbial factories that manufacture natural products that are inaccessible to commercial markets through conventional approaches.

Current research projects 

Bioactive indole-diterpenes for agri-technology applications: Delivery of nodulisporic acids and potent analogues

Staff and students

  • Staff: Leyla Bustamante, Rosannah Cameron
  • PhD student: Kyle Van de Bittner, Rudy Bundela

Collaborators

Publications

A list of our scholarly publications since 2012