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Synthetic and Computational Peptide Engineering

Our research focuses on the design of novel synthetic peptide molecules using principles inspired by synthetic biology, computational biology, and microbiology. Our current application areas include infectious diseases, antibiotic resistance, the microbiome, biomaterials and nanotechnology.

In particular, we focus on redesigning tiny proteins called peptides, which are the workhorses of life, and a source of biologically active molecules with under-explored therapeutic potential. The 20 natural amino acids that make up these molecules offer an almost unlimited number of combinations unparalleled by other polymers such as DNA (20n; n being the number of amino acids present in any given peptide chain). Many other non-canonical residues can also be incorporated into peptide chains via peptide design approaches. In addition, peptides are promising drugs because their primary amino acid sequences can be easily tuned to achieve specific biological functions inside living cells.

Despite their promise, peptide-based therapeutics have largely remained unexplored due to the limited diversity of naturally occurring peptide scaffolds, their cost, and a lack of methods to design them rationally. Using principles from peptide engineering, synthetic biology and computational biology, we investigate how simple nanopeptides may be exploited and rationally designed for a range of medical applications. In addition, we aim to build completely new protein/peptide structures not known to the biological world, and biomaterials for applications in synthetic biology, biotechnology and medicine.


César’s research projects have been funded by


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Protein image source: