BAE Seminar: Wenjun Zhang, February 24, 2015; 1:10PM; 2045 Bainer Hall

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 
1:10 PM, 2045 Bainer Hall

Topic: "Biosynthesis of functionalized natural products and applications" 

Speaker: Wenjun Zhang, Assistant Professor 
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 
University of California, Berkeley 


Natural products are important small molecules widely used as drugs, pesticides, herbicides, and biological probes. These compounds offer functional group arrays and scaffold architectures that form advanced platforms for optimization of biological activities. The unique functional groups, additionally, may be used as chemical reporters in bioorthogonal chemical reactions to enable the visualization, engineered biosynthesis and mode of action study of natural products. We recently identified and characterized two novel biosynthetic pathways in microbes leading to the generation of terminal alkene and alkyne, which are readily derivatized functionalities commonly used in chemical synthesis and bioorthogonal chemistry. We further showed the promise of using these enzymatic machinery for in situgeneration and incorporation of a unique chemical reporter into various natural product scaffolds. Coupling with diverse bioorthogonal probes, our work may significantly advance the field of natural product research and allow greater utilization of the largely untapped potential of natural products for both pharmaceutical and biofuel applications. 

Short Biography of the Speaker 

Dr. Wenjun Zhang is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at University of California, Berkeley, and a Biologist Faculty Scientist/Engineer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She received her bachelors degree in biochemistry from Nanjing University, China and her PhD in chemical engineering from University of California, Los Angeles with an honor. She is the author of over 40 original journal articles for her research and was named Pew Scholar in 2012. Dr. Zhangs laboratory is studying natural product biosynthesis and engineering for applications in bioenergy and medicine. The research themes include genome mining for new bioactive small molecule and enzyme discovery, pathway enzyme identification and characterization, pathway design toward combinatorial natural product biosynthesis and biofuel production, as well as biological function characterization of natural products. 

Coffee and cookies will be served.