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Department of Biochemistry


Brennen Heames


I studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, graduating with an MSci in Biochemistry in 2016. My fourth year project was in the Hollfelder group, supervised by Stephane Emond. This focused on developing a method to generate targeted InDel libraries, allowing insertion and deletion mutations to be directed to suitable regions of a protein (enabling smarter libraries for directed evolution).

Training and Transferable Skills:

  • Molecular biology: cloning and mutagenesis, library generation and screening.
  • Biochemistry: protein purification and characterization (ITC, NMR).
  • Bioinformatics: Ancestral Sequence Reconstruction (ASR).

Research Projects:
The emergence of genes from non-coding sections of DNA was long thought to be highly unlikely. However, a growing number of genes have now been confirmed as 'de novo' in origin. While this suggests a biologically significant role for such genes, the characteristics of their encoded proteins remain unknown. I hope to use Ancestral Sequence Reconstruction to piece together the evolutionary steps taken by recently emerged proteins, and subsequently characterize their structure and function. In addition, de novo proteins (or their ancestors) may represent highly evolvable scaffolds, and should be investigated as a potential starting point for future directed evolution efforts.