University of Washington
Research Expertise: Prebiotic chemistry
VPL Focus: Task D: The Living Planet
Over a 26-year career in the biotechnology industry, I built and led R&D programs that identified the enzymes required for the release from cells of two central mediators of inflammation, interleukin-1β and tumor necrosis factor-α. In addition to authoring key papers on the biochemistry, structure and cell biology of these enzymes, I co-directed medicinal chemistry efforts to develop inhibitors for therapeutic use. I also led a program to develop a naturally occurring protein inhibitor of metalloproteases for use in treating osteoarthritis and heart failure.
In 2010, I took a sabbatical to learn about prebiotic membranes in the laboratory of Dr. David Deamer at the University of California-Santa Cruz, and in 2011 I left industry to pursue my origin-of-life interest as an affiliate professor at the University of Washington. With Dr. Sarah Keller in the Department of Chemistry, I have published a paper showing that RNA bases and ribose bind to and stabilize a model prebiotic membrane, and a review of evidence for the concept that a self-assembled aggregate composed of a fatty acid membrane and the building blocks of biological polymers provides a first step in the emergence of cells. We were awarded a grant from NASA in 2017 to establish further evidence for this concept.