I am the principal Investigator for the Integral Membrane Proteins group at the SGC. I am a structural biologist with extensive experience in X-ray crystallography of soluble proteins. I have a degree in Biochemistry from Cambridge University, UK, and a PhD from Birkbeck College, London. I was a post-doc in Paris and London, at the National Institute for Medical Research and at Imperial College, where I solved the structures of soluble proteins involved in DNA repair, toxoplasmosis and muscle movement. More recently I developed a fascination with the most challenging problems in structural biology, the structures and functions of proteins embedded in the membranes of cells. These proteins with large hydrophobic surfaces are particularly challenging to study and yet are essential for understanding the fundamental processes of movements of molecules and signals across cell membranes. In 2007 I moved to the Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire to establish an international training facility, the Membrane Protein Laboratory. In 2009 I moved to the SGC to take charge of the Integral Membrane Proteins group.
My group has extensive experience in producing human membrane proteins from the Baculovirus/insect cell expression system. We have developed high throughput methods to rapidly screen constructs of membrane proteins, determine which length of protein is most stable, which detergents are suitable for protein production and which methods are optimum for protein purification. These methods allow us to purify a range of proteins for structure and function studies. We use enzyme assays, mass spectrometry and thermostability detection as tools to study the function of ABC transporters, enzymes and ion channels. For structural studies we use crystallisation in vapour phase and lipidic cubic phase and to determine structures we use X-ray crystallography. In the future we aim to improve methods for producing and stabilizing human membrane proteins, so that a broad range of IMP structures can be solved efficiently. We also plan in the future to develop small molecule binders, both activators and inhibitors, for human ion channels and other membrane proteins.