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Associate Professor of Chemistry and Senior Fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy
BioAssociate Professor of Chemistry Matthew Kanan develops new catalysts and chemical reactions for applications in renewable energy conversion and CO2 utilization. His group at Stanford University has recently developed a novel method to create plastic from carbon dioxide and inedible plant material rather than petroleum products, and pioneered the study of “defect-rich” heterogeneous electro-catalysts for converting carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide to liquid fuel.
Matthew Kanan completed undergraduate study in chemistry at Rice University (B.A. 2000 Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa). During doctoral research in organic chemistry at Harvard University (Ph.D. 2005), he developed a novel method for using DNA to discover new chemical reactions. He then moved into inorganic chemistry for his postdoctoral studies as a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he discovered a water oxidation catalyst that operates in neutral water. He joined the Stanford Chemistry Department faculty in 2009 to continue research into energy-related catalysis and reactions. His research and teaching have already been recognized in selection as one of Chemistry & Engineering News’ first annual Talented 12, the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, Eli Lilly New Faculty Award, and recognition as a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Environmental Mentor, among other honors.
The Kanan Lab addresses fundamental challenges in catalysis and synthesis with an emphasis on enabling new technologies for scalable CO2 utilization. The interdisciplinary effort spans organic synthesis, materials chemistry and electrochemistry.
One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is to transition to an energy economy with ultra-low greenhouse gas emissions without compromising quality of life for a growing population. The Kanan Lab aims to help enable this transition by developing catalysts and chemical reactions that recycle CO2 into fuels and commodity chemicals using renewable energy sources. To be implemented on a substantial scale, these methods must ultimately be competitive with fossil fuels and petrochemicals. With this requirement in mind, the group focuses on the fundamental chemical challenge of making carbon–carbon (C–C) bonds because multi-carbon compounds have higher energy density, greater value, and more diverse applications that one-carbon compounds. Both electrochemical and chemical methods are being pursued. For electrochemical conversion, the group studies how defects known as grain boundaries can be exploited to improve CO2/CO electro-reduction catalysis. Recent work has unveiled quantitative correlations between grain boundaries and catalytic activity, establishing a new design principle for electrocatalysis, and developed grain boundary-rich copper catalysts with unparalleled activity for converting carbon monoxide to liquid fuel. For chemical CO2 conversion, the group is developing C–H carboxylation and CO2 hydrogenation reactions that are promoted by simple carbonate salts. These reactions provide a way to make C–C bonds between un-activated substrates and CO2 without resorting to energy-intensive and hazardous reagents. Among numerous applications, carbonate-promoted carboxylation enables the synthesis of a monomer used to make polyester plastic from CO2 and a feedstock derived from agricultural waste.
In addition to CO2 chemistry, the Kanan group is pursuing new strategies to control selectivity in molecular catalysis for fine chemical synthesis. Of particular interest in the use of electrostatic interactions to discriminate between competing reaction pathways based on their charge distributions. This effort uses ion pairing or interfaces to control the local electrostatic environment in which a reaction takes place. The group has recently shown that local electric fields can control regioselectivity in isomerization reactions catalyzed by gold complexes.
Paul A. Khavari, MD, PhD
Carl J. Herzog Professor in Dermatology in the School of Medicine
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsWe work in epithelial tissue as a model system to study stem cell biology, cancer and new molecular therapeutics. Epithelia cover external and internal body surfaces and undergo constant self-renewal while responding to diverse environmental stimuli. Epithelial homeostasis precisely balances stem cell-sustained proliferation and differentiation-associated cell death, a balance which is lost in many human diseases, including cancer, 90% of which arise in epithelial tissues.
Wells H. Rauser and Harold M. Petiprin Professor in the School of Engineering and Professor of Chemistry and, by courtesy, of Biochemistry
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsResearch in this laboratory focuses on problems where deep insights into enzymology and metabolism can be harnessed to improve human health.
For the past two decades, we have studied and engineered enzymatic assembly lines called polyketide synthases that catalyze the biosynthesis of structurally complex and medicinally fascinating antibiotics in bacteria. An example of such an assembly line is found in the erythromycin biosynthetic pathway. Our current focus is on understanding the structure and mechanism of this polyketide synthase. At the same time, we are developing methods to decode the vast and growing number of orphan polyketide assembly lines in the sequence databases.
For more than a decade, we have also investigated the pathogenesis of celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine, with the goal of discovering therapies and related management tools for this widespread but overlooked disease. Ongoing efforts focus on understanding the pivotal role of transglutaminase 2 in triggering the inflammatory response to dietary gluten in the celiac intestine.
Recently, we initiated a collaborative program involving multiple Stanford laboratories (http://med.stanford.edu/virx.html.html) that is aimed at developing a fundamentally new approach to treating viral infections. As part of this initiative, we are developing an antiviral chemotherapy that modulates pyrimidine metabolism in the host, and also a platform to engineer immuno-modulatory glycolipids for the treatment of influenza.
Peter S. Kim
Virginia and D. K. Ludwig Professor of Biochemistry
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsWe are studying the mechanism of viral membrane fusion and its inhibition by drugs and antibodies. We use the HIV envelope protein (gp120/gp41) as a model system. Some of our studies are aimed at creating an HIV vaccine. We are also characterizing protein surfaces that are referred to as "non-druggable". These surfaces are defined empirically based on failure to identify small, drug-like molecules that bind to them with high affinity and specificity.
Violetta L. Horton Research Professor and Professor of Microbiology and Immunology
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsThe biochemistry of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase function, the cell biology of the membrane rearrangements induced by positive-strand RNA virus infection of human cells, and the genetics of RNA viruses, which, with their high error rates, live at the brink of error catastrophe, are investigated in the Kirkegaard laboratory.
The George A. and Hilda M. Daubert Professor in Chemistry
Current Research and Scholarly Interests• Development of cell-permeable reagents for study and modification of RNAs
• Developing small-molecule probes of DNA repair pathways
• Design of a functional new genetic set, xDNA and xRNA (structure, function, applications)
• Synthesis of combinatorial fluorescent assemblies built on a DNA scaffold (oligodeoxyfluorosides, ODFs) as labels and sensors for biology and medicine
Maureen Lyles D'Ambrogio Professor
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsWe study cancer biology, intestinal stem cells (ISC), and angiogenesis. We use primary organoid cultures of diverse tissues for oncogene functional screening and therapeutics discovery. Angiogenesis projects include endothelial miRNA and GPCR ko mice, blood-brain barrier regulation, stroke therapeutics and anti-angiogenic cancer therapy. ISC projects apply organoid culture and ko mice to injury-inducible vs homeostatic stem cells and symmetric division mechanisms.