The overarching theme of my current research is peptide engineering, rational design of peptides and understanding protein-peptide interactions for applications in bio-separations, drug delivery, and biosensing. Peptides are an attractive class of biomolecules that can be employed as affinity reagents, drugs, drug carriers, biomaterials and biosensors. During my PhD in Prof. Pankaj Karande’s lab at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), I explored several rational and combinatorial strategies for the design of affinity peptides against biomolecular and bio-inorganic targets. Specifically, I worked on designing peptides for the following applications – (1) as carriers for delivering neurotherapeutics across the blood-brain barrier (BBB), (2) as ligands for biosensing of cardiac troponin I, a biomarker of acute myocardial infarction, and (3) as modulators of calcium oxalate monohydrate crystals.
As a postdoctoral researcher in the labs of Prof. Steven Cramer and Prof. Pankaj Karande at RPI, I am expanding my expertise in the area of biomolecular design and engineering by specifically focusing on the problem of designing affinity ligands for the purification of non-mAb biologics. The long-term goal of this project is on-demand manufacture of biologically-derived medicines. My role in the project is to apply rational, biomolecular design strategies towards creating robust, affinity peptides for affinity-based purification of therapeutic proteins. The problem poses an exciting biomolecular engineering challenge since affinity ligands for bioprocessing applications need to possess several key features such as high affinity, selectivity, and elutability for their target along with optimum dynamic binding capacity, efficient regenerability and resistance to base and proteolytic cleavage. Further, I have also investigated into the design of peptides with specific molecular recognition properties such that they can distinguish between native and unfolded states of a protein. The multidisciplinary nature of the project has given me the unique opportunity to collaborate with several top researchers from academia and industry and understand first-hand the challenges faced by the pharmaceuticals industry in bio-manufacturing of therapeutic proteins.
My future research aims to address critical challenges in therapeutic design, delivery and purification by exploring novel biomolecular design and engineering strategies and employing experimental as well as computational approaches to this end. I aspire to build a world-class research program that will focus on finding creative and affordable solutions to the abovementioned healthcare challenges. I envision my research to address not only some fundamental questions related to these problems but also foster extensive collaborations with the industry and deliver practical solutions. As an independent researcher in academia, I also see myself in an active role as a teacher and contributor to the profession of chemical engineering as well as a mentor to the future generations of high school, undergraduate and graduate students and postdocs.
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