Our laboratory is involved in the development of spectroscopic and other, physical, chemical as well as biological, methodologies for studying structure, dynamics and interactions in systems that have biological or medicinal (therapeutic or diagnostic) relevance or in bio-inspired supramolecular systems relevant in a nanoscience context. Methodological development is combined with mechanistic studies focusing on problems related to how molecules interact with each other and determine function of specific biological processes, including enzymes and molecular machines and how this insight may be exploited further for the design of advanced supramolecular functionalities.
Nucleic acids, proteins and lipid membranes are studied in simplistic model systems as well as in more complex systems including live cells, to investigate thermodynamics and kinetics of, for example, transport and binding of drugs into DNA and cellular uptake mechanisms. Experimental techniques such as polarized-light absorption (circular and linear dichroism), luminescence and time-resolved fast laser spectroscopy, calorimetry, electrophoresis and atom-force single-molecule microscopy are combined with theoretical approaches, including quantum chemical computations and molecular dynamics simulations.
I would say that I am interested in everything: to think about how life was created – and if it happened outside the Earth – to how an electron moves in an atom or how an electrical field surrounding an ion may catalyze a chemical reaction. Even though all my research projects are curiosity driven in the area of fundamental science, there are almost always also some interesting practical application associated. Studies of how molecules are ordered in liquid flow gave us for example a method to study protein and DNA structure in solution, an invention which we now daily apply in the laboratory. Another example, investigations how various substances can cross a lipid membrane may lead to new strategies for delivery of drugs into living cells and so on.
The big grants received during 2008 (KAUST Award, Advanced Investigator ERC Grant and the Linné-center Bio-inspired Supramolecular Function and Design) have made it possible for me to start up projects that I earlier only had dreamt about. These projects encompass quite different kinds of problems but they are often approached with a common scientific approach: DNA is thus studied from both a biological point of view (e.g. new principles for recognition of long sequences, mechanisms for genetic recombination, gene therapy and transfection) as well as regarding how to use the DNA-base-pairing specificity and structural stability of the double helix to construct “addressable” two-dimensional networks for nano-technological applications (sensors, molecular electronics or nano-motors). Spectroscopy is another common basis of methodologies that we utilize to study structure and function for the molecular systems studied.