Nigel Scrutton - Research Profile

Research interests are focused on the mechanisms and structures of enzyme catalysts and light-activated proteins, with particular emphasis on understanding the physical basis of catalysis, the importance of dynamics to catalysis and light-activated signalling. His work is set at the interface of chemistry, biology and physics and is focused on elucidating fundamental mechanisms of enzymes/light-activated proteins, from the quantum to macromolecular levels, and spanning femtosecond to second timescales. His group is centred in the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, with strong links to the Photon Science Institute at Manchester and the Harwell Research Complex. Major interests are in the use and development of biophysical methods (laser photolysis, ultrafast methods, single molecule and ensemble kinetic methods, structural biology and various spectroscopies), allied with chemical (isotope effects, computation, biocatalysis), engineering (protein design/redesign) and theoretical approaches. The group has developed new fast reaction approaches to study enzyme systems and has a strong track record in new instrument development. The group also has strong interests in enzyme, engineering and evolution, biocatalysis, synthetic biology and exploitation of enzymes in biotechnology using mechanistic and structural studies as a platform for this work. The group has recently developed major high throughput programmes in chemicals production using metabolic engineering/synthetic biology approaches facilitated also by the infrastructure established in the Manchester Synthetic Biology Research Centre (SYNBIOCHEM).

The group's discoveries include new modes of enzymatic H-transfer by quantum mechanical tunneling mechanisms, dynamical control of biological hydrogen and electron transfer reactions and the rational design/redesign of enzymes to catalyse new chemical transformations. The group has pioneered the use of new rapid mixing and laser photoactivation/ultrafast methods to access enzyme chemistry. Recent work has focussed on integrating biocatalysts into metabolic engineering and synthetic biology work flows with a view to creating new microbial factories for fine and speciality chemicals production.

Work in the group has a strong interdisciplinary focus. The group is keen on building teams of investigators from across the disciplines to tackle major projects involving experts from a number of scientific backgrounds.