Synthetic Biology

We have developed methods enabling the design and construction of vast combinatorial libraries of novel amino acid sequences. Most of these sequences fold into stable protein structures (see graphic at right), and many of them display biochemical activities. With the availability of millions of novel proteins, one can begin to go beyond “Protein Design” and consider of “Proteome Design.” This enables the exploration of new questions at the interface of chemistry and biology: Are natural proteins special? Or is it possible to produce new sequences that fold and function? (We think that latter is true). Since our collections of designed proteins are expressed from synthetic genes in living cells, we can now construct artificial “genomes” comprising sequences that never before existed in biology, but nonetheless provide functions necessary to sustain the growth of living cells.

The image at right shows a ribbon diagram of the high-resolution 3-dimensional structure of S-824, a protein designed de novo in the Hecht laboratory

Below is a link to a seminar Dr. Hecht presented at NASA:
NAI Director’s Seminar: Michael Hecht