Emmy Noether Research Groups
Research in the Cell-free Synthetic Biology group is motivated by the remarkable precision with which living organisms control when and where reactions happen. What are the characteristics of the molecular interactions that drive organization in time and in space? How much organization is necessary to integrate multiple complex biochemical functions? Can we learn from biology to design new life-like materials? To answer these questions we build and study artificial, biochemically simplified systems. We take a creative approach to engineering biology-inspired reaction systems using a combination of biological and synthetic components. We use and develop microfluidic tools, hybrid materials, and cell-free reaction systems.
We characterize and engineer metalloenzymes to elucidate the underlaying principals and mechanisms of metalloenzyme catalysis. The group focuses on the activation of nitrogen (N2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) by the enzyme nitrogenase. Harnessing theses insights, we engineer metalloenzymes to develop improved catalysts for the production of bulk chemicals, including fertilizer (NH3), hydrocarbons (C2H4, C3H8, C4H10) and hydrogen (H2). The long-term goal is to develop novel metabolic pathways using these unique reactivities.