Enzyme Catalysis and Chemicals Production: New Insights that Interconnect Quantum Biology, Biocatalysis and Synthetic Biology.

Time: 9:30-11:00,  Oct 11st (Tuesday)

Venue: Room 143, New Biology Building, THU

Host: Dr. CHEN Guo-Qiang


Nigel Scrutton is Director of the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) at the University of Manchester, UK. He is responsible for the strategic leadership and operational management of the institute, which comprises over 50 leading research groups (ca 500 research staff) from across all Faculties and is home to ca £100M of current grant funding and 8 spin out companies. Nigel gained his PhD (1988; as a Benefactors' Scholar) and ScD (2003) at the University of Cambridge where he was awarded the Henry Humphrey's Research Prize. At Cambridge he held a Royal Society University Research Fellowship, a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Fellowship and college fellowships. He was appointed Professor at the University of Manchester in 2005, where he held a BBSRC Professorial Research Fellowship and was Research Dean prior to his appointment as MIB Director. He also held academic positions (1995-2005) at the University of Leicester UK prior to taking up his current position at Manchester. He currently holds an EPSRC senior fellowship.


 I have been fascinated by the complexity and catalytic capabilities of enzymes throughout my career. My group has pursued research on the mechanisms and structures of biocatalysts - and more recently on light-responsive proteins - and integrated these studies into ambitious synthetic biology and metabolic engineering programmes (e.g. for chemicals production). My group has undertaken ambitious, wide-ranging interdisciplinary programmes in experimental enzyme biophysics and integrated these with structural and chemical biology, computational simulation and theory. Highlights have included demonstration of the unexpected importance of nuclear tunneling mechanisms in biological catalysis, discovery of new biological cofactors (e.g. prenylated flavins), structures of enzymes in complex with lead drug compounds (e.g. for Huntington's chorea/Alzheimer's disease) and mechanistic understanding of new roles for vitamin B12 and other photoreceptors in light-activated transcriptional regulation. In the fields of metabolic engineering/synthetic biology/directed evolution we have engineered organisms to biosynthesize propane gas and a wide array of monoterpenoid products. These programmes have their foundations in basic discovery science and in selected cases extend to commercial exploitation through spin out activity.

In this lecture I will highlight selected aspects of our work focused on the enzyme family termed ‘ene reductases’. This will involve a journey from basic understanding of enzyme mechanisms, taking in structural biology, quantum biology and advanced kinetic methods, through to applications in biocatalysis, and ultimately to the engineering of microbial organisms for the production of monoterpene flavours and fragrances. The lecture will also highlight infrastructure and capabilities available in the Manchester Synthetic Biology Centre (SYNBIOCHEM) that I established recently and for which I am Director.