Why synthetic protein science?

Much of protein science has been performed by analyzing natural proteins. Whereas such "analytical protein science" has contributed to the vast and deep knowledge of the structure, function and evolution of natural proteins, we believe that, by creating synthetic proteins, i.e. proteins that have never existed in nature, we can learn much more and engineer molecules that can address critical needs in medicine and industry.

Key considerations that inspire us to design and engineer synthetic proteins include:

  • Proteins are molecular recognition devices.
  • Protein sequence space is huge: 20^N, with N being the number of residues. It’s likely that only a small sequence space has been sampled in a meaningful manner in the history of natural proteins.
  • Natural proteins have evolved to be “just good enough” for the host organism.
  • We should be able achieve much higher functionality than that is present among natural proteins.
  • The exercise critically tests our understanding – “Learning by building”.
  • Making new stuff is fun and we can create practically useful molecules.

Synthetic protein science is an interdisciplinary field bridging biology, chemistry, physics, medicine and engineering, with tremendous potential for growth.