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Office: MEYR 247B
Phone: 410-455-5728
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Ian Thorpe
Assistant Professor
Post-Doctoral University of Utah 2009; Ph.D. The Scripps Research Institute 2005; B.S. University of Miami 1998
PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS
Cartoon representation of NS5B. The fingers domain is shown in green, the palm domain in red, and the thumb domain in blue. Allosteric binding site NNI2 is shown occupied by the ligand VGI (grey space filling representation) from the 2WHO x-ray crystal s

Molecular Simulation and Biophysical Modeling

 

My core interests are to understand the fundamental physical principles that govern the interplay between protein structure, function and dynamics. My objective is to study biological questions that have a tangible, positive impact on societal problems. Primary tools in this undertaking are theoretical and molecular simulation methods. I embrace a multidisciplinary approach to research and value collaborations with experimental groups.

 

Allosteric Inhibition of Hepatitis C Viral Polymerase

                                      

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects about 170 million people worldwide and is an important public health concern. I intend to identify novel therapeutic strategies to counter HCV infection by examining, at the molecular level, the physical properties that govern inhibition of the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (gene product NS5B) which replicates the HCV genome. Several classes of allosteric inhibitors bind to the enzyme away from the site of nucleotide addition to a nascent RNA strand. The mechanism of action of these inhibitors is not well understood, and to date there have not been systematic studies to understand the molecular origin of inhibition. I will employ molecular simulation methods to obtain a detailed physical description of the structural and dynamic properties of NS5B in order to determine the source of allosteric inhibition. My goals are to: 

 i) identify the molecular origin of allosteric inhibition

ii) locate novel allosteric binding sites on the enzyme surface

iii) identify new small molecule inhibitors that can bind to known or newly identified allosteric sites.

 

Engineering Algal Enzymes for Biofuel Production

                              

A worldwide effort to find renewable alternatives to fossil fuels is underway. Under certain conditions, algae produce substances that can be be used as biofuels such as hydrogen, hydrocarbons and lipids. We are particularly interested in lipid production as lipids can be readily converted to biodiesel and thus could be easily substituted for fossil fuels. However, the lipid biosynthetic pathway of algae is not fully understood. This project seeks to understand the metabolic pathways involved in lipid biosynthesis in algal species. We seek to identify ways to modify the properties of enzymes involved in lipid biosynthesis to increase overall lipid production. We combine structural information available for these enzymes with kinetic modeling, molecular simulation, phylogenetic analysis and biochemical data to identify rational design strategies to enhance lipid production.