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Department of Biochemistry


Jason Baby Chirakadavil


I graduated from D.Y. Patil University (India) in 2015 with a Master of Technology in Biotechnology. My graduate research with Prof. Kiran Kondabagil of the Indian Institute of Technology in India focused on the replication mechanism of Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus. For my master’s degree, I was awarded the Dr. A. Velumani Award and the INSPIRE Award from Thyrocare Technologies and the Department of Science and Technology respectively.
After graduation, I spent 2 years working as a Junior Research Fellow with Prof. Rinti Banerjee at IIT Bombay in India. We studied the use of charged nanoparticles, soft lithography for nanoscale patterning, and microfluidic devices to study bacterial adherence to surfaces, with the final aim to develop of a Point-of-Care diagnostic device for the detection of bacterial infections. After working for two years in the field of nanomedicine, I came across Prof. Patrice Soumillion’s work on enzyme evolution, spellbound by the work I joined the group for my PhD.
When I’m not working in the lab or thinking about my bacteria, I enjoy travelling around Europe, photography, cooking and pretending to be good at football.

Training and Transferable Skills:

  • FPLC (protein purification)
  • Molecular biology (PCR, cloning etc.)
  • Enzyme assays with radiolabeled substrates
  • Nanoparticle synthesis and characterization (DLS/Zeta, TEM)
  • Cell culture (mammalian and microbial)
  • Microfluidics (chip and paper-microfluidics)
  • Polymer Engineering
  • Fluorescence, AFM
  • 3D modelling (SolidWorks, Tinkercad)
  • Programming (Perl)

Research Projects:
For my Ph.D project, I have joined the lab of Prof. Patrice Soumillion in the group of ‘Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Genetics of Microorganisms’ (BBGM) at the Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium). Prof. Soumillion is one of the group leaders in the research on enzyme engineering and accelerated evolution. In this group, my project will focus on the directed evolution of enzymes expressed from their natural chromosomal loci. To this aim, we will take advantage of the naturally competent bacteria Streptococcus thermophilus. We are also working towards the development of a continuous culture system for the accelerated evolution of a single gene or set of genes expressed from chromosomal loci.
Accelerated evolution in the laboratory is an important strategy for creating biomolecules endowed with new or improved properties. However, overexpressing proteins from plasmid vectors does not properly mimic natural evolution and may create fitness problems. Thus, it is important to develop strategies for evolving specific genes directly from their chromosomal loci. Besides, directed evolution generally involves successive steps of mutation and selection or screening which are time consuming and laborious. Thus, there is a need for developing systems allowing for the continuous evolution of target biomolecules.