Ben Davis

Oxford University

Date: Tuesday, June 14, 2022
Talk Time: 11:10 am - 11:35 am
Talk Title: Sugars & Proteins: Towards a Synthetic Biology

Ben Davis got his BA in 1993, and D.Phil. in 1996 from the University of Oxford. During this time he learned the beauty of carbohydrate chemistry under the supervision of Professor George Fleet. He then spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Professor Bryan Jones at the University of Toronto, exploring protein chemistry and biocatalysis.

In 1998 he returned to the U.K. to take up a lectureship at the University of Durham. In the autumn of 2001 he moved to the Dyson Perrins Laboratory, University of Oxford and received a fellowship at Pembroke College, Oxford. He was promoted to Full Professor in 2005. In late 2019 he became the Science Director for Next Generation Chemistry at the Rosalind Franklin Institute.

His group's research centres on the chemical understanding and exploitation of biomolecular function – Synthetic Biology, Chemical Biology and Chemical Medicine – with an emphasis on carbohydrates and proteins. In particular, the group's interests encompass synthesis and methodology; target biomolecule synthesis; inhibitor/probe/substrate design; biocatalysis; enzyme & biomolecule mechanism; biosynthetic pathway determination; protein engineering; drug delivery; molecular biology; structural biology; cell biology; glycobiology; molecular imaging and in vivo biology.

Ben Davis was/is co-founder of Glycoform, a biotechnology company that from 2002-2011 investigated the therapeutic potential of synthetic glycoproteins; of Oxford Contrast, a company investigating the use of molecular imaging for brain disease; of SugaROx, a company that uses bond-breaking methods in plants to control and stimulate plant growth and productivity and of Scindo, a cleantech company started by former D.Phil. student Gustaf Hemberg that is harnessing the power of enzymes to recycle the unrecyclables. In 2003 he was named among the top young innovators in the world by Technology Review, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT's, magazine of innovation in the TR35 awards and was a finalist in the BBSRC Innovator of the Year competition in 2010.

He was elected to the Royal Society in 2015.

Our work studies the interplay of biomolecules – proteins, sugars and their modifications. Synthetic Biology's development at the start of this century may be compared with Synthetic Organic Chemistry's expansion at the start of the last. After decades of isolation, identification, analysis and functional confirmation the future logical and free-ranging redesign of biomacro- molecules offers tantalizing opportunities.

This lecture will cover emerging areas in our group in chemical manipulation of biomoleclules with an emphasis on new bond-forming and -breaking processes compatible with biology as well as new mechanistic methods and their use in un-picking associated biological mechanisms.

New Methods: The development of efficient, complete, chemo- and regio-selective methods, applied in benign aqueous systems to redesign and reprogramme the structure and function of biomolecules.

"Synthetic Biologics:" Associated biophysical methods and their applications: biomimicry; functional recapitulation; effector, drug/agrochemical/gene/radio-dose, delivery; interrogation of pathogen interactions; non-invasive presymptopmatic disease diagnosis; probes and modulators of in vivo function.

Ben Davis, talk image 2

Ben Davis
Ben Davis, talk image 1
Ben Davis, talk image 3
Ben Davis, talk image 4