Portrait of Professor Philipp Kukura

Seminar title:
Revealing the physicochemical basis of biomolecular interactions with mass photometry

Seminar abstract:
Interactions between biomolecules control the processes of life in health, and their malfunction in disease, making their characterization and quantification essential to our understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms. I will introduce mass photometry, the accurate mass measurement of individual molecules in solution by light scattering, as a general approach for studying biomolecular mechanisms. The combination of label-free detection and mass measurement results in universal applicability enabling the study of interaction stoichiometries, structure, energetics and kinetics.

I will demonstrate the power of these measurements using recent results that reveal the molecular mechanisms, enabled by the measurement of the underlying physicochemical parameters, of fundamental processes such as filament formation and self-assembly both in solution and on bilayer membranes. In combination with future improvements in both technical capabilities and assays, mass photometry could make significant headway towards the ultimate goal of revealing biomolecular mechanisms directly at the molecular level.

Speaker biography:
Philipp Kukura read Chemistry at St Hugh’s College Oxford until 2002 and obtained a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley under the supervision of Prof Rich Mathies in ultrafast spectroscopy before moving to ETH Zurich to work with Prof Vahid Sandoghdar in nano-optics.

After returning to Oxford in 2010, he became a tutorial Fellow at Exeter College in 2011, and promoted to Full Professor in 2016. Awards include those by the Royal Society of Chemistry (Harrison-Meldola 2011 and Marlow 2015), the European Biophysical Society Association (Young Investigator Medal 2017), a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2018), the Klung-Wilhelmy Science Award (2018), the Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists UK (2019), and the RMS Medal for Light Microscopy (2021).

He is founder and non-executive director of Refeyn Ltd (2018), where he acted as CEO from 2018 – 2020. The Kukura group has been and continues to be supported by the ERC (Starting, Consolidator and Proof of Concept) and the EPSRC (Career Acceleration Fellowship, Leadership Fellowship).

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