Step by Step: Engineering Protein Cages for RNA Delivery


Event details

Date 23.11.2023
Hour 11:3013:30
Speaker Prof. Angela Steinauer
Category Inaugural lectures - Honorary Lecture
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.

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Practical information

  • General public
  • Free


  • Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering – ISIC


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