ESR13 – Damiano Baroni

ESR13 investigates 4-oxalocrotonate tautomerase (4-OT) promoted aldol addition of acetaldehyde to a variety of benzaldehydes looking for efficiency, stereochemistry and product selectivity. The researcher will generate mutability landscapes for this enzyme to develop tailor-made aldolases with enhanced activity and selectivity and will harness the best performing enzymes in (chemo) enzymatic cascades to prepare todiols and aminoalcohols. In addition, redesigned natural aldolases will also be tested as potential catalysts for these and related reactions. Moreover, the researcher will oversee characterisation studies of these enzymes.

I got my BSc in organic chemistry with a thesis on synthesis of novel irreversibile deubiquitinase inhibitors as anticancer compounds at the University of Trieste. There I continued with an MSc in organic and supramolecular chemistry: my thesis was on rational design and modelling of cutinases with improved activity towards polymer degradation. Nowadays my scientific interest is to harness both rational approaches and directed evolution to expand the array of biocatalysts available. My enthusiasm for chemistry has deep roots: even as a child I was really passionate about science and building stuff (Lego, Meccano, wood, you name it). I grew up but this passion stayed with me. I see chemistry as a way to manipulate matter at the most fundamental level in order to create new, extraordinary things. I also like the rationality behind chemistry’s rules and the endless possibilities it offers. As for hobbies, I enjoy reading mainly non-fiction, board gaming and videogames, mostly strategy ones. I like learning new stuff, it being in biocatalysis, economics, geopolitics or new strategies for a game I enjoy. In contrast, I’m really not fond of repetitive stuff…if it gets old it’s time to mix things up and explore new paths! After this ITN my goal is to continue to do what I enjoy: learning new things and applying my knowledge to expand the available biocatalytic toolkit!

Project information

Workpackage: WP3

Project title: Exploiting enzyme promiscuity to develop novel aldolases

Host institution: Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

Secondments: Prozomix Ltd and TU Darmstadt

Supervisor: Gerrit J. Poelarends