Research in biochemistry and molecular biology

There are a large number of faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students engaged in research related to the mission of the Biochemistry Program.

The following faculty are members of the Biochemistry Program and conduct research in biochemistry and molecular biology. Click on a researchers name to link to a fuller description of their research.

Researcher Description of research
Marc Aucoin Process dynamics of virus-based systems for the production of complex biologics such as viral vectors and vaccines, and the development of strategies using multiple viruses to obtain recombinant products in cell culture.
Michael Beazely How growth factor receptors and G protein-coupled receptors modulate ion channels involved in excitatory neurotransmission, neuroprotective mechanisms, and neuronal development; intracellular signaling pathways downstream of GPCRs such as the 5-HT7 receptor and growth factor receptors such as the PDGF receptor.
Trevor Charles Molecular genetic studies of plant-associated bacteria. Rhizobium carbon metabolism. Genetics of polyhydroxyalkanoate metabolism. General environmental microbiology.
C. Perry Chou Recombinant protein production, biofuel production, and bioprocessing technology. Applied biological sciences and engineering theories to develop novel and effective bioprocesses for the production of recombinant proteins (including industrial enzymes and therapeutic proteins) and metabolites (including biohydrogen, biodiesel, and biobutanol). Such bioprocess development includes upstream technology for biological strain construction, midstream technology for bioreaction (i.e., cultivation), and downstream processing for bioproduct recovery and purification.
Dale Martin The research in the Martin Lab focuses on identifying and characterising therapeutics that reduce levels of mutant huntingtin, the causative agent of the neurodegenerative disease Huntington disease (HD), by repairing the protein clearance pathway of autophagy and gene silencing. Our approach is highly collaborative and multi-faceted involving the identification of human SNPs, population genetics, protein characterization, chemical biology and high-resolution microscopy. Various aspects of these studies are performed in yeast, cell culture or mice.
Thorsten Dieckmann NMR-spectroscopy, RNA and protein structure, RNA-protein interactions, RNA catalysis, viral infections, cellular defense mechanisms.
Brian Dixon Characterization of fish immune system at the molecular level. Cytokines and receptors in fish immune systems. Defining fish populations using polymorphism of immune system genes. Cold-blooded vertebrate immunotoxicology.
Gary Dmitrienko Enzyme structure and function.
Bernard Duncker Genetics and DNA replication. Use of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to investigate protein factors that control the initiation of DNA replication.
Heidi Engelhardt The dialogue between the developing fetus and the mother during mammalian pregnancy, and the role of the placenta as the mediator; the ability of the placenta to protect the developing organism from sub-optimal maternal environments through adaptive changes in structure, vasculature or functional exchange capacity.
Moira Glerum Mitochondrial myopathies, mitochondrial biogenesis, assembly of cytochrome oxidase in yeast and humans, mitochondrial copper transport, mitochondrial peroxide metabolism, heme A biosynthesis.
Todd Holyoak My laboratory’s research interests lie in the areas of enzyme structure, mechanism, inhibition and allostery. In light of these general interests our research currently focuses on the role that conformational plasticity plays in these areas of enzymology and how these dynamic aspects of enzyme structure can be exploited in the regulation of enzyme function.
John Honek Protein structure and function, protein engineering, Enzyme mechanism and catalysis, Metalloenzymes, Recombinant DNA, biophysical methods and molecular modeling, Carbon-sulfur biochemistry, Bionanotechnology.
Okey Igboeli Application of emerging technologies (Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Data Analytics, Blockchain etc.) to new drug discovery, smart healthcare and healthcare data management.
Jamie Joseph Ascertaining how the β-cell senses glucose and searching for ways to reduce the number of islets required for islet transplantation. These two themes are connected in that the first theme provides novel targets to enhance islet function in the second theme. Long-term goals are to discover novel drug targets for enhancing islet function to treat type 2 diabetes and to develop a renewable source of β-cells (e.g., cell therapy) to treat both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Subha Kalyaanamoorthy Computational biology, structure- and ligand- based drug discovery, biomolecular simulations, membrane proteins, enzymes, protein structure-function evolution, protein engineering.
Vassili Karanassios Direct elemental analysis of micro-samples, analytical atomic spectrometry, inductively coupled plasma optical emission and mass spectrometry, chemometrics, artificial intelligence via neural networks, intelligent spectrochemical instrumentation.
Zoya Leonenko Biophysics of lipid membrane and lipid-protein interactions, the role of structural changes and physical properties of lipid template in controlling biological processes and diseases, application of lipid films in biomedical nanotechnology. Current projects include the study of structure and function of lung surfactant; amyloid fibril formation and toxicity in relation to Alzheimer’s disease; interaction of nanoparticles with lipid membrane, and development of applications of lipid films in biomedical nanotechnology. Methods: optical, fluorescence and scanning probe microscopy – atomic force microscopy (AFM), magnetic force microscopy (MFM) and Kelvin probe force microscopy (FM-KPFM).
Juewen Liu In vitro selection of catalytic DNA and aptamers for selective detection of metabolites, proteins, cells, and targeted drug delivery. Biochemical and biophysical characterization of aptamers. DNA-directed assembly of functional nanomaterials.
Qing-Bin Lu Medical biophysics and biochemistry, particularly molecular reaction mechanisms of anticancer drugs for chemotherapy, radiotherapy and photodynamic therapy. Molecular pathways regulating DNA damage and cell death. Ultrafast electron transfer reactions in biological, environmental and medical systems. Femtochemistry, femtobiology and femtomedicine: Application of ultrafast biophotonics technology to biomedical studies.
Kesen Ma Physiology and enzymology of hyperthermophilic microorganisms: sulfur-dependent energy metabolism; thermostable dehydrogenases; alcohol metabolism; electron transfer proteins; relationship between structure and function of enzymes from hyperthermophiles.
Mungo Marsden Molecular mechanisms that mediate changes in biological form; modulation of cell adhesion states that allow for the complex three dimensional rearrangements that characterize early embryogenesis; two families of cell adhesion molecules: integrins and cadherins.
Brendan McConkey Development of methods for prediction of protein structure from amino acid sequence using a combination of computational and biochemical techniques: scoring functions and search algorithms, mass spectrometry data to extract structural information from proteins.
Vivek Maheshwari Atomic ion mediated targeting of cells. Synthesis of ion-nanomaterial for interfacing with cells. Development of an electronic cell (i.e., a bio-electronic hybrid for cellular electronic devices). Study of cellular processes using the electronic cell. Developing disease screening methods with ion-nanomaterial. Amino-acid functionalized nanomaterial. Dynamic tactile sensors. Ion based currents in solid state devices.
Elizabeth Meiering Protein structure, dynamics, folding, and function. High resolution NMR. Spectroscopy. Biocomputing and Protein Engineering. Proteins under invesigation: hisactophilin; dihydrofolate reductase; HIV ribonuclease; SOD.
Kirsten Muller Bioinformatics. Evolution and origin of plastids within the various algal divisions utilizing ribosomal RNA gene sequences. Utilization of secondary structure of rRNA genes to delimit taxonomic groups. Development of sequence alignment algorithms for ribosomal RNA.
Praveen Nekkar Rao Explore rational drug design aided by molecular modelling techniques; small molecule synthetic organic/medicinal chemistry, including method development; solid phase peptide synthesis of bioactive peptides / peptidomimics; modern analytical techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, mass spectroscopy and high performance liquid chromatography; and development of high-throughput biochemical screening protocols to discover lead candidates.
Josh D. Neufeld Research spans three complementing research areas: Microbial diversity and ecology; Carbon and nitrogen cycling in the environment; Revealing the rare biosphere.
Abiola Olaitan Molecular mechanisms underlining Clostridioides difficile defense against host-generated stress, such as nitrosative stress; Clostridioides difficile pathogenesis and epidemiology; mechanisms of antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens.
Janusz Pawliszyn Our focus is the development and application of state-of-the-art, integrated and automated analytical methods and instrumentation, for on-site analysis and monitoring.
Natoya Peart Our focus is on defining the molecular mechanism by which tissue specific RNA binding proteins (RBPs) and cell type specific post-transcriptional regulation of RNA affect cellular identity and function, particularly in epithelial cells.
Bill Power NMR spectroscopy. Multinuclear, gas phase, high-resolution and solid-state NMR. Transition metal NMR of bioinorganic systems. Chemical shielding and nuclear quadrupolar coupling of metal sites in complex materials.
Bruce Reed Green fluorescent protein (GFP)-based methods of live imaging in Drosophila (fruit fly) to study how cells are genetically programmed to die when they lose contact with their surroundings. The failure of this type of cell death – known as anoikis, contributes to cancer metastasis and tumour invasiveness in humans.
J. David Spafford Voltage-gated calcium channels. Calcium channels participate in essential brain functions, such as synaptic transmission, neuronal plasticity, patterned nerve activity underlying rhythmic behaviours, outgrowth of neurons and synapse formation.
Scott Taylor Biological chemistry with a focus on: (1) Synthesis of cyclic lipodepsipeptide antibiotics (cLPAs) and elucidating their mechanism of action using biophysical techniques (NMR, ITC, fluorescence spectroscopy); (2) Synthesis of nucleosides and nucleoside polyphosphates for RNA vaccine development; (3) Synthetic methodology and medicinal chemistry.