Small Molecule Biotechnology

Interest in engineering biomolecules for the pharmaceutical industry is rapidly increasing, for example in novel therapeutics. Additionally, understanding how food components and nutraceuticals interact with cellular biomolecules can help us understand diseases better.


Professor Gary Henehan and Dr Barry Ryan. ABEG: Applied Bioconversion and Enzymology Group.

Dr Ryan and Professor Henehan are engaged in the application of protein chemistry, enzymology and molecular biology in a variety of biomedical and biotechnological applications. Currently, one major research strand is focussed on understanding the regulation of the voltage gated shaker potassium channel. The beta subunit of this channel  is involved in moderating potassium ion flux. This channel has been shown to be important in a number of convulsive disorders.  In addition, group members are examining the use of novel lipase and glucosidase enzymes for carrying out specific biotransformations. Recently researchers within the group have shown that a nanoparticle immobilised beta glucosidase from Streptomyces griseus  is an efficient catalyst for the synthesis of a family of alkyl- and aryl-β-D-glucosides. Reasearch in ongoing within the group into the application of novel lipases from Amycolatopsis mediterranei for commercial purposes. 


Dr. Andrew Knox. Computational Design of Proteins with Novel Structure and Tailored Function.

Engineering proteins with improved function or new applications is a fast-growing segment of biotechnology and biomedicine. Examples of computationally designed protein based catalysts are now emerging in the literature (e.g. retro-aldol, Kemp elimination, and stereoselective Diels-Alder reactions) and several groups have successfully designed novel proteins with e.g. enhanced thermostability. Importantly, approaches and methods are being developed that could allow the design of proteins beyond the confines of natural protein structures. 

In this regard, we are currently exploring with industrial partners the potential of computationally designing 1) novel enzymes (e.g. proteases), capable of releasing novel bioactive peptides with utility in functional food and 2) modified proteins with controlled stability.


Dr Jesus Frias and Professor Hugh J. Byrne. Formulation of nanoparticles for a milk peptide.

IPP is a tripeptide from milk exhibiting anti-hypertensive effects. Bioavailability is limited due to poor permeability across the intestine. Nanoparticle formulation presents a technological alternative for the design of oral delivery systems of bioactive peptides of food origin with low permeability through the intestinal membrane. This project studied the characterisation of unloaded nanoparticles and IPP loaded nanoparticles using ionotropic gelation of chitosan (CL113) and tripolyphosphate (TPP). Results indicated that formulation of suitable oral delivery nanoparticles with the desired characteristics is feasible, and that the loading of the nanoparticles does not make a change on the final particle size.

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