2020 Hellman Fellow
Assistant Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry
UC San Diego
Project title: Development of Targetable Polarization Agents for Structural Biology in Cells
Project description: Painting an atomic resolution picture of the cellular environment has long been an outstanding dream for structural and functional biologists alike. Currently, there are three techniques that have set their sights on this ambitious and exciting goal: cryo-electron tomography (CET), single molecule optical based approaches, and in-cell nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy. Among those techniques, NMR spectroscopy stands out with its ability to provide atomic resolution structural and dynamic information in the context of a living cell, and its capability to tackle a variety of cellular components, including small proteins and large macromolecular assemblies, metabolites, lipids, sugars and nucleic acids.3-4 Thus, the development of efficient in-cell NMR approaches will allow structural biologists to observe elusive cellular events such as the dynamic rearrangements of protein molecules that lead to neurodegenerative amyloid plaques, the phase transitions of proteins that protect cells against cancer, or the binding of inhibitors and drugs to their targets in the cellular environment.