Customizing enzymes amid the corona shutdown – News from DIAS Fellow Changzu Wu’s Team

DIAS Fellow Dr. Changzhu Wu and his team has been given exemption to continue their research in enzyme catalysis amid the Corona-shutdown – but not without reservation.

At the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy (FKF) at SDU, Changzhu Wu and his team has recently opened a new laboratory. In short, the research conducted at this lab consists of two aspects: Immobilizing the enzymes and modifying them.

Designing clothes for enzymes

Enzymes are powerful, biological catalysts which increases the chemical processes in a cell. They are increasingly used commercially, for instance for green productions, in the synthesis of drugs and even in washing powder. However, they are often unstable under usual industrial conditions and their natural function cannot meet industrial demands.

Changzhu Wu and his team working from home.

Therefore, Changzhu’s goal as a chemist is to find out how to customize enzymes for specific uses. Not only to make them stronger, but also to perform new tasks that they’re originally not capable of:

“The work in my lab is actually simple: I strive to design “clothes” for the enzymes to improve their performance. Some of these clothes are meant to protect the enzymes from harsh industrial conditions (enzyme immobilization), and some are to provide the enzymes with new functions for new jobs (enzyme modification)”

A magic wand

For this purpose, Changzhu and his team do not only require biological tools to produce the enzymes, but also the chemical aids to prove their new ideas. As so, this lab is not just a matter of logistics, but an important requisite for the research’s success:

“Basically, this lab is like a magical wand. With this wand, we enchant the enzymes and make them stronger and better. Afterwards we need to proof their performance, which requires many instruments that this lab can contain” 

Unfortunately, due to the current corona crisis and subsequently government shutdown, the magic has somewhat ceased. 

The lab – where “the magic happens”.

Beside the exemption to open the lab, Changzhu’s team has found it necessary to work from home most of the time. This is quite a challenge for a group in this field, as they rely primarily on experimental data.

A change of style

In May, only the team’s postdoc was at the lab to continue the core research, while the rest tried to remain as active as possible. Even though these restrictions undoubtedly will have an impact on the research, Changzhu is not worried:

“We are using this special time to complete our research manuscripts and writing, which are tasks that must be completed outside the lab anyway. We are just changing our working style.”

Changzhu Wu and his team are happy for this next phase of the reopening of Denmark, where all public research which require physical presence are allowed to fully continue.

Click here for more information about Dr. Changzhu Wu.