Francesco Mutti joins HIMS as group leader in Biocatalysis

8 May 2015

Dr. Francesco Mutti has been appointed assistant professor in Biocatalysis at the Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS). His research, focused on novel bio-inspired synthetic pathways, will complement the strategy of the UvA Research Priority Area Sustainable Chemistry.

Mutti was recently awarded a Starting Grant by the European Research Council, which he will use for his research at HIMS. He is apppointed on a tenure track position initiated by the Dutch national Sector Plan on Physics and Chemistry (Sectorplan Natuur- en Scheikunde). 

Novel enzymes 

The main focus in Mutti's research is the design and development of bio-inspired systems for the sustainable manufacture of structurally diverse chemical products. This will be achieved through  the development of new biocatalytic cascades (i.e. using isolated enzymes in vitro) and biosynthetic pathways (in microbial organisms). 

Amine dehydrogenase

Amine dehydrogenase with bound NADH cofactor. Mutti will engineer this class of enzymes with his coworkers.

This bio-inspired approach is expected to elevate yields, to perfect the chemo-, regio- and stereo selectivity, to enhance the atom efficiency and to minimise the environmental impact of synthetic pathways.

The new pathways resulting from Mutti's bio-inspired approach will convert inexpensive starting materials from renewable resources in a very efficient  and sustainable manner. On a molecular level, this encompasses the internal recycling of redox equivalents, the use of inorganic ammonia as nitrogen source and - if necessary -  only molecular oxygen as the innocuous additional oxidant or molecular hydrogen as the most atom-efficient hydride source.

An important aspect of Mutti's research is the generation of new enzyme variants, both through semi-rational protein engineering and the creation of artificial enzymes. These novel enzymes will be capable of catalysing chemical reactions that are unknown in nature. Consequently, they can be integrated into artificial pathways to solve challenging synthetic problems, shorten synthetic routes and improve efficiency.

Multi-disciplinary team

With the Biocatalysis group Francesco Mutti will lead a high multi-disciplinary team working at the interface between chemical and life sciences, combining expertise in disciplines such as

  • biocatalysis and biotransformations; 
  • organic synthesis; 
  • biochemistry and enzyme kinetics; 
  • bioorganic chemistry; 
  • protein engineering and molecular biology.

ERC Starting Grant 

Francesco Mutti obtained his Master’s degree in chemistry summa cum laude at the University of Milan, Italy, in 2004. After a short experience in the R&D of a chemical industry, he obtained a Doctoral Fellowship from the Italian Minister of University and Research (2005). His research was then funded with a Marie Curie post-doctoral Fellowship (2009) to carry out research in the group of Prof. Wolfgang Kroutil at the University of Graz, Austria.

Mutti continued his post-doctoral activity as a member of various EU-FP7 projects (2010-2014) in Kroutil’s group and later in the group of Prof. Nicholas Turner at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) at the University of Manchester, UK.

Francesco has recently obtained an ERC Starting Grant 2014 and has been group leader in Biocatalysis at the MIB since January 2015. After moving to the UvA, Francesco will retain an honorary Research Fellow position at The University of Manchester.

Published by  HIMS