Innovation by Evolution: Bringing New Chemistry to Life
Not satisfied with nature's vast catalyst repertoire, we want to create new protein catalysts and expand the space of genetically encoded enzyme functions. I will describe how we can use the most powerful biological design process, evolution, to optimize existing enzymes and invent new ones, thereby circumventing our profound ignorance of how sequence encodes function. Extending the capabilities and uncovering the mechanisms of these newly-evolved enzymes provide a basis for discovering biocatalysts for increasingly challenging reactions. These capabilities increase the scope of molecules and materials we can build using synthetic biology and move us closer to a sustainable world where chemical synthesis can be fully programmed in DNA.