Host: Prof. Emma Master
In biological systems, simple building blocks such as proteins, nucleic acids and lipids are precisely organized to form higher ordered structures across multiple length scales. Harnessing the principles and mechanisms underlying the self-assembly and self-organization of natural structures and materials offers tremendous opportunities for the design and scalable fabrication of functional biomaterials with emergent properties. Proteins and peptides provide the greatest versatility for the bottom-up design and low-cost production of such self-assembling supramolecular materials due to the chemical diversity of their amino acid building blocks. They are also genetically encoded, allowing for the genetically programmable production of self-organizing materials using cell factories or synthesize self-assembling materials de novo via cell free expression systems. Proteins are also key players in the formation of inorganic-organic composite materials with properties unmatched by synthetic properties. Inspired by the spatial organization of enzymes at the subcellular level via protein nanostructures, we are taking advantage of these mechanisms for the design of self-assembling protein-based nano-architectures for different applications, including for in vitro biocatalysis and the fabrication of new types of functional materials. Of key interest to us is the discovery and design of mechanisms with which to interface protein-based materials with biomineralization processes to produce innovative materials with unique mechanical and other properties. I will discuss possibilities and examples from our work for the design of genetically encoded self-assembling 2D and 3D-protein scaffolds as functional materials for diverse applications, including for biocatalysis and biosynthesis and as living materials.
Dr. Claudia Schmidt-Dannert is a Distinguished McKnight Professor and Kirkwood Chair of Biochemistry in the Dept. of Biochemistry and the Director of the Biotechnology Institute at the University of Minnesota.
She completed her B.S. and M.S. in Biochemistry and Genetics at the TU Braunschweig and performed her PhD research at the National Research Center for Biotechnology in Braunschweig (GBF, now Helmholtz Center for Infectious Diseases). She then moved to the University of Stuttgart and became group leader of the Molecular Biotechnology Group in the Institute of Technical Biochemistry (Rolf Schmid group). In 1998, she received a Habilitation Fellowship from the German Science Foundation for “molecular breeding of pathways” and with this project, joined Prof. Arnold’s group at Caltech. In 2000, she joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota.
Current research efforts in her group focus on using synthetic biology approaches for the design of genetically programmable materials for biosynthesis, biocatalysis and other applications, including the fabrication of living materials. Another area of expertise in her group is in the engineering of different microbial chassis organisms to produce valuable chemicals. Dr. Schmidt-Dannert has published numerous manuscripts, patents, and book chapters; serves as Editor and board member of several journals and received several awards such as a David and Lucile Packard Fellowship and McKnight Fellow- and Professorships.
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