ChBE Distinguished Alumni Seminar: Hal S. Alper

Friday, October 19, 2012
10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
Room 2110 Chemical and Nuclear Engineering Bldg.
Professor Jeffery B. Klauda

Directed Evolution Strategies for Cellular and Metabolic Engineering

Hal S. Alper
Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology
Department of Chemical Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin

With advances in the areas of Metabolic Engineering, it is now conceivable to produce nearly any organic molecule of interest using a cellular host. Great progress has been made in demonstrating the cellular production of biofuels, biopolymers and precursors, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals, and commodity and specialty chemicals. However, these feats require the ability to “hijack” native cellular machinery and metabolism. One of the biggest challenges in the field is that cellular metabolism is quite complex. Specifically, cellular metabolism and complex global phenotypes are the result of coordinated, interwoven networks of metabolites, enzymes, and regulatory factors. Metabolic engineering attempts to favor certain traits by reconfiguring these networks through the introduction of genetic controls. This task will often require a complete reprogramming or replacement of many metabolic and regulatory components. To this end, many strategies have been investigated for identifying and altering genetic targets. One particularly useful and broadly applicable approach for reconfiguring and modulating these components is protein directed evolution. This talk will focus on illustrating the power of merging metabolic engineering approaches with protein engineering principles for common metabolic engineering targets such as pathway enzymes, genetic control elements, transporter proteins, and both regulatory and epigenetic elements. Several case studies will be used to demonstrate these concepts and highlight successes in each of these categories. Ultimately, these efforts can be combined to enable a multi-level phenotype optimization which forms the basis for an integrative metabolic and cellular engineering approach. This combination is particularly useful for engineering complex phenotypes that are not regulated by single genes or pathways within the cell. This talk will conclude with prospects for the future of cellular engineering and complex phenotype via such an integrative approach.

About the Speaker
Dr. Hal Alper joined The University of Texas at Austin faculty as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering in 2008. Dr. Alper also serves on the Graduate Studies Committee for the Cell and Molecular Biology Department and the Biochemistry Department. He earned his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2006 and was a postdoctoral research associate at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research from 2006-2008, and at Shire Human Genetic Therapies from 2007-2008. Dr. Alper is currently the Principal Investigator of the Laboratory for Cellular and Metabolic Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Alper’s research is in the area of cellular and metabolic engineering. His research focuses on metabolic and cellular engineering in the context of biofuel, biochemical, and biopharmaceutical production in an array of model host organisms. In the context of this work, Dr. Alper focuses on applying and extending the approaches of related fields such as synthetic biology, systems biology, and protein engineering. Dr. Alper has published 32 articles that have been cited over 1600 times and has an h-index of 16. Dr. Alper is the recipient of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award in 2008, the Texas Exes Teaching Award in 2009, the DuPont Young Investigator Award in 2010, the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award in 2011, and the UT Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award in 2012.

Audience: Graduate  Faculty  Post-Docs 


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