Our research aims at understanding the fundamental principles for how biomolecules fold into unique and functional shapes and at using this insight to guide the design of novel nanoscale devices for technological applications.
Biomolecules can self-assemble into unique three-dimensional (3D) shapes determined by their sequence of residues. This causal relationship allows us to design the shape of biomolecules by programming their sequence. Our design process starts by investigating the atomic structure of nature's biomolecules from which we extract structural modules and invent new ways of combining them into a defined 3D shape. In a second step, we use computer algorithms that take into account the physical properties and folding kinetics of the molecules to design their sequence. The sequences are then chemically synthesized and used in self-assembly experiments followed by the investigation of their 3D structure and properties by biophysical characterization techniques.
Our research group has been involved in the development of the DNA origami method to create 3D nanomechanical devices such as the DNA origami box, and we are further developing DNA origami devices for applications in biosensing, enzymatic control and drug delivery. Recently, we have invented the RNA origami method that allows nanostructures to be enzymatically synthesized and possibly expressed in cells. We aim to use this new technology for synthetic biology purposes as intracellular sensors and as scaffolds for biosynthesis pathways of relevance to the biotechnology industry.