The conversion of chemical energy into mechanical work can be regarded as the most technologically transformative advances of modern science. Yet, even decades after Feynman’s insights on molecular machines, the capability to perform useful work remains limited to the macroscale. The realization that natural molecular motors generate mechanical forces at the nanoscale by using biochemical energy, has recently brought many to contemplate the design of synthetic biomolecular motors...
James was born and raised in Shropshire, England. He obtained his MChem (2010) from the University of York and his PhD (2014) from the University of Bristol, where he studied transmembrane anion transport under the guidance of Professor Anthony Davis. James then moved to the University of Edinburgh to work as a postdoctoral research associate with Professor Scott Cockroft, interrogating single molecules and reactions using transmembrane protein nanopores...
Charlie McTernan is a physical sciences group leader at the Francis Crick Institute in London, and a lecturer at the Department of Chemistry at King's College London. He is a supramolecular chemist, investigating how artificial molecular machines and metal-organic capsules can be applied in biomedical science. Charlie Thomas McTernan was born in London and studied Chemistry at Hertford College, University of Oxford. His Part II project...
Jacob Majikes is a Research Scientist in the Microsystems and Nanotechnology Division. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from North Carolina State University. His doctoral research focused on probing the folding/assembly of DNA origami nanostructures. Jacob is working with Alex Liddle to develop metrics to quantify the yield of discrete DNA nanostructures and to understand the effect of structure design on yield.
Professor Sara Walker is an astrobiologist and theoretical physicist, with research interests in the origins of life, artificial life, life and detection on other worlds. Since joining ASU in 2013 she has built a highly interdisciplinary research program to tackle the origin of life problem from all sides. She has mentored dozens of early career scientists and leads one of the largest theory groups in origins of life and astrobiology internationally. Her team's major contributions are in theoretical advances in the field of astrobiology...
What is the group doing?
We want to build a universal constructor for 3D structure of polymers, adaptable to any chemistry.
What is new in your approach?
Our approaches will create the first-ever technology that can make sequence-polymer structures for non-natural polymers, which will provide a new language to unlock a vast design landscape of possible 3D polymers that is currently completely inaccessible.
What is new in your approach?
Biology invented a molecular architecture that can 3D ‘print’ any protein. We want to build an architecture that can do the same for any possible polymer system. We will start with building a simpler ribosome, since the sequence to 3D structure map is worked out and chemistry known. We will use those design insights, iteratively from computational design to evolution, to expand to other possible polymers, building the first system that can program 3D structure into any variety of polymer.
How is it done today? If you are successful, what difference will it make?
Natural ribosomes are extremely complex as well as not reengineerable, not transferable, and necessitate complex cellular machinery. They cannot generalize to polymers outside of the key macromolecules biological life uses. Meanwhile solid state synthesis of peptides are inherently limited (length, speed, scalability). If we succeed, we will be able to program sequence-to-structure for polymers that were not biologically evolved, allowing significant expansion of the capabilities of macromolecular chemistry.
Cost and timeline?
Initial funding should focus on the ‘minimal ribosome’ project, with the idea that the key output is not just the artificial ribosome functionality, but a design platform transferable to other polymer types.
Design and filtering in silico -> wet lab expression and prototyping (~months – 1 year of postdoc time standard computational resources), successfully tape copying experimental evidence, with iterative design-evolution-testing (translation of mRNA into protein of target structure) (~2 years postdoc time, standard biochemical ressources)