We work at the interface of chemistry and biology. Our research aims to understand how protein post-translational modifications (PTMs), and the enzymes involved contribute to cell signaling in diseases and immune regulation, and how these PTMs, enzymes, enzymatic reactions, and related cellular processes can be exploited for targeted therapy. To achieve this, we use cutting-edge techniques from chemical biology, biochemistry, protein engineering, and synthetic biology.

Our particular interest lies in exploring what is happening on the surface of cells in the tumor microenvironment (TME). The cell membrane is a complex and dynamic environment through which cells interact with each other and respond to different stimuli. Membrane proteins, comprising around a quarter of all human proteins, play a crucial role in various biological processes such as transporting, signaling, and catalysis. The dynamic membrane and extracellular environment are often altered through protein PTMs. These modifications lead to the changes in protein function and all kind of mechanistic outcomes. Dysregulation of these PTMs is associated with cancer progression and adverse immune regulation, making them a significant area of focus in our research.

Our work focuses on three main objectives:

  • Developing new technologies to identify and study protein PTMs and their associated enzymes in cellular environments at molecular, cellular, and systems levels.
  • Discovering new chemical and biological phenomena or mechanisms that lead to pathological phenotypes and using this knowledge to guide the development of next-generation immunotherapies.
  • Engineering small molecules (i.e., peptides) and biologics (i.e., proteins, enzymes, antibodies, and cells) to improve our understanding of diseases and to develop novel therapeutics.

We employ a range of techniques, including synthetic chemistry, proteomics, functional genomics, and protein/antibody/cell engineering. We also use different combinatorial selection technologies such as phage/yeast/cell/virus display, coupled with NGS and bioinformatics. By integrating diverse perspectives and techniques, we aim to advance our understanding of human diseases and inform the design of the next-generation immunotherapy.