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Innovation by evolution: bringing new chemistry to life

21st May 2018 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm


Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering (IMSE) Highlight Seminar by Professor Frances Arnold (Caltech), Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioenginnering and Biochemistry

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Not satisfied with nature’s vast enzyme repertoire, we want to create new ones and expand the space of genetically encoded enzyme functions. I will describe how we can use the most powerful biological design process and evolution, to optimize existing enzymes and invent new ones, thereby circumventing our profound ignorance of how sequence encodes function. By mimicking nature’s evolutionary tricks and using a little chemical intuition, we can generate whole new enzyme families that catalyze important reactions, including ones not known in biology. These new chemical capabilities increase the scope of molecules and materials we can build using synthetic biology.

Speaker biography

Professor Frances Arnold’s research focuses on protein engineering by directed evolution, with applications in alternative energy, chemicals and medicine. Professor Arnold pioneered the ‘directed evolution’ of proteins, mimicking Darwinian evolution in the laboratory to create new biological molecules. Her laboratory has developed protein evolution methods that are used widely in industry and basic science to engineer proteins with new and useful properties.

Arnold has been recognized by induction into the US National Academies of Science, Medicine and Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Her awards include the Charles Stark Draper Prize of the National Academy of Engineering, the Millennium Technology Prize, the National Academy of Sciences’ Sackler Prize in Convergence Research, and the US National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

She chairs the Advisory Panel of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowships in Science and Engineering. Professor Arnold also co-founded Gevo, Inc. in 2005 to make fuels and chemicals from renewable resources and Provivi, Inc. in 2014 to develop non-toxic modes of agricultural pest control. She received her BS in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University and her PhD in Chemical Engineering from UC Berkeley.


21st May 2018
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Event Category:


Imperial College London
London, SW7 2AZ United Kingdom + Google Map