Re-engineering nature using biocompatible chemistry: from therapeutic peptides to self-assembling proteins

Dr Yu Heng Lau
School of Chemistry, The University of Sydney
9 March 2018 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Rountree Room 356, Level 3, Biological Sciences Building D26

The first half of the seminar will cover macrocyclic peptides, promising inhibitors of challenging drug targets such as intracellular protein-protein interactions. Biocompatible cyclisation chemistry can be used to lock the conformation of a peptide, leading to improvements in its proteolytic stability, target binding affinity and degree of uptake into cells. The simplicity and biocompatibility of this chemistry enables rapid identification of peptides with the desired inhibitory efficacy.

The second half will cover unpublished work on self-assembling bacterial proteins known as encapsulins, ideal scaffolds for the in vivo compartmentalisation of proteins. Porting the encapsulin protein from M. xanthus into S. cerevisiae creates synthetic compartments which can encapsulate any protein of interest that bears a short peptide tag. Encapsulation can extend the lifetime of unstable proteins, and bring multiple proteins into close proximity, while preserving native function in the case of enzymatic catalysts.

Speaker Biography: Yu Heng Lau is a lecturer in the School of Chemistry at the University of Sydney. Yu Heng completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge, developing new chemical methods for synthesising peptide-based therapeutics. He then moved to Harvard Medical School as a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow in the field of synthetic biology, building recoded synthetic genomes in bacteria and engineering self-assembling protein nanocompartments in yeast. In mid-2017, he took up his current role as a group leader in chemical and synthetic biology.