BioE COLLOQUIA SERIES: "Mass Photometry: Weighing Molecules with Light"


Event details

Date 24.02.2020 12:15  
Speaker Prof. Philipp Kukura, Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford (UK)
Category Conferences - Seminars
(sandwiches served)

Interactions between biomolecules control the processes of life in health, and their malfunction in disease, making their characterization and quantification essential to our understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms. I will introduce mass photometry, the accurate mass measurement of individual molecules in solution by light scattering, as a general approach for studying biomolecular structure, function, and regulation. I will illustrate the reach of mass photometry by demonstrating its applicability to both nucleic acids and membrane proteins in addition to lipids, sugars and polypeptides, thereby covering the majority of biomolecules. Combination of this broad applicability with the ability to accurately determine the relative amounts of species in complex mixtures without the need for labels or other sample modifications results in a universal method to study interaction stoichiometries, energetics and kinetics. More trivially, although no less powerful, I will show that mass photometry sets new standards for evaluating sample homogeneity, which will likely have considerable impact on structural biology workflows, and in vitro studies of protein function and regulation more generally. Taken together, these results establish mass photometry as an extremely powerful, solution-based, label-free, yet single molecule method to quantify and thereby study biomolecular structure and interactions. In combination with future improvements in both technical capabilities and assays, mass photometry could realise the dream of revealing biomolecular mechanisms directly at the molecular level.

I was born in Bratislava, then Czechoslovakia and moved to Germany at the age of four, where I grew up. I read Chemistry at St Hugh’s College Oxford until 2002 and did a PhD at the University of California, Berkeley with Rich Mathies in ultrafast spectroscopy before moving to ETH Zurich to work with Vahid Sandoghdar on nano-optics. After returning to Oxford initially as an EPSRC Career Acceleration Fellow in 2010, I was elected to a tutorial fellowship at Exeter College in 2011 and promoted to Full Professor in 2016. Recent awards include those by the Royal Society of Chemistry (Harrison-Meldola 2011 and Marlow 2015), the European Biophysical Society Association (Young Investigator Medal 2017), a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2018) and selection as a UK Blavatnik Award Finalist (2018). I also hold an ERC Starting Investigator Grant.

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