Romero Targets Wide-ranging Applications with Data-driven Protein Engineering

photo of Philip RomeroProteins are an impressive bunch. Starting with amino acids as their basic building blocks, these complex molecules fold into intricate 3D structures and control just about every biological process that keeps us alive.

Phil Romero wants to understand how proteins accomplish that job so that he can eventually apply their power to important problems in medicine, agriculture, chemistry and bioenergy.

“Describing how proteins perform a vast array of biological functions is tremendously challenging for two reasons,” says Romero, an assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “One, they are highly dynamic molecules that constantly change their shape; and two, their properties emerge from the collective behavior of many interacting components.”

So instead of relying on a bottom-up approach that uses the laws of physics to predict biological behavior, Romero, who has an affiliate appointment with the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, is betting on the top-down approach: learning how protein sequence translates into function by analyzing massive data sets.

“Our ability to generate, store and analyze biological data has exploded during the last decade,” Romero says. “That’s why data-driven approaches are playing an increasingly important role in biological discovery and engineering.”

To read more about Romero’s work, see the link below.