We create chemical tools based on short proteins called peptides to explore fundamental processes involved in human health and disease.
All cellular functions depend on how proteins interact with each other within cells. To try to decipher these complex networks, we need tools that can interfere with specific protein interactions in a targeted way.
Our lab uses a screening technology, known as the RaPID system, to allow us to screen libraries of up to 1013 molecules (exceeding the number of stars in the galaxy by more than ten times!) to identify peptides that bind extremely tightly to our chosen proteins.
These peptides can be used directly, or further modified, to create tools to block the activity or interactions of proteins of interest, and explore the functions and interactions of these proteins in cells.
Proteins called enzymes act as biological catalysts to accelerate cellular processes. A current focus of the lab is understanding how a particular family of enzymes, known as the protein arginine deiminases, are controlled. Their activity has many important roles within a cell including in gene regulation.
However, when their activity is out of balance, diseases such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis and various cancers can occur. This makes these enzymes interesting drug targets. Our goal is therefore to produce peptides that can modify their activity, both to better understand the functions of the enzymes and as potential new drugs.