EPFL BioE Talks SERIES "Step by Step: Engineering Protein Cages for RNA Delivery"


Event details

Date 04.12.2023
Hour 16:0017:00
Speaker Prof. Angela Steinauer, Laboratory of Biomolecular Engineering and Nanomedicine (LIBN), EPFL, Lausanne (CH)
Location Online
Category Conferences - Seminars
Event Language English

Recent advances in RNA therapies, notably the mRNA vaccines for COVID-19, have underscored the critical role of efficient gene delivery methods. While lipid nanoparticles and viral vectors have proven their efficacy, engineered virus-like protein cages stand out as a potential alternative. Engineered protein cages have distinct advantages: they are constructed from the ground up, allowing complete flexibility for functional engineering. Given their protein-based nature, they are amenable to optimization via directed evolution techniques. In line with Feynman's axiom, 'What I cannot create, I do not understand,' our research is  following a bottom-up approach to engineer virus-like properties, step by step, with the ultimate goal to deliver mRNA into cells. This approach may not only introduce alternative methodologies for gene delivery but also provide a new lens through which to understand viral evolution.

In this lecture, the evolved nucleocapsid NC4 will serve as a model to showcase the power of protein engineering and directed evolution in the bottom-up construction of virus-like properties. Finally, I will offer a brief vision of upcoming research endeavors from the Laboratory of Biomolecular Engineering and Nanomedicine (LIBN).

Angela was born and raised in the small town of Gross, near Einsiedeln (SZ) in Switzerland. She pursued her bachelor's and master's studies in chemistry at the University of Zurich, graduating in 2012. She then relocated to the United States to complete her Ph.D. in Chemical Biology at Yale University, supervised by Prof. Alanna Schepartz. During her Ph.D., she was honored with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Student Research Fellowship. After receiving her doctorate in 2018, Angela returned to Switzerland to join ETH Zurich. Her first postdoctoral work in the Hilvert Lab at ETH Zurich focused on the characterization of protein cages for RNA delivery applications and was supported by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Postdoctoral Fellowship. She then undertook a one-year postdoctoral position in the Leroux group at ETH, with a focus on the engineering of mucolytic enzymes. Angela now leads the Laboratory of Biomolecular Engineering and Nanomedicine (LIBN) at EPFL, where she aims to develop protein-based gene carriers by combining the tools of protein engineering and directed evolution.

Zoom link (with one-time registration for the whole series) for attending remotely: https://go.epfl.ch/EPFLBioETalks

Instructions for 1st-year Ph.D. students who are under EDBB’s mandatory seminar attendance rule:
IF you are not attending in-person in the room, please make sure to
  1. send D. Reinhard a note before noon on seminar day, informing that you plan to attend the talk online, and
  2. be signed in on Zoom with a recognizable user name (not a pseudonym making it difficult or impossible to be identified).
Students attending the seminar in-person should collect a confirmation signature after the talk - please print your own signature sheet beforehand (71 kB pdf available for download here).

Practical information

  • Informed public
  • Registration required