Focus Areas and Research Themes

PROTEO’s global research theme is articulated around three main interconnected axes that cover the entire continuum of the exploitation of discoveries and innovations in protein sciences. These three research axes are organized around targeted scientific objectives and structuring initiatives rather than according to the specific technical expertise of each PROTEO member. This organization aims at stimulating collaborative research leading to the synergistic realization of arge-scale innovation projects integrating the three research axes.

Theme 1. Fundamental discoveries on the function of proteins and interactomes

Axis leaders: Élodie Boisselier (U. Laval) and Xavier Roucou (U. Sherbrooke)

The identification of new proteins and the characterization of their mechanisms of action at the molecular and systemic levels are essential steps to develop, produce and exploit new biological products and bioprocesses. Moreover, considering their involvement in physiological processes, proteins represent reliable biomarkers for diagnosis and are privileged targets for the development of effective therapies. However, proteins are complex macromolecules and their physicochemical, structural and biological characterization still presents many technological
challenges, thus requiring a transdisciplinary research strategy. The researchers of Axis 1 have complementary expertise in emerging fields: prediction of protein structures and networks via artificial intelligence, molecular dynamics, and functional proteomics. The research efforts of our members are supported by scientists from various disciplines: (i) synthetic chemists for the design of molecular probes, (ii) bioinformaticians for omics analysis, (iii) biochemists for the understanding of regulatory mechanisms, and (iv) physicists for innovative strategies for studying molecular interactions. Knowledge of the molecular functioning of proteins within organisms is absolutely essential to feed Axes 2 and 3, and in particular to ensure the deployment of targeted applications.

Theme 2. Engineering of proteins and innovative biological systems

Axis leaders: Joelle Pelletier (U. Montreal) and David Kwan (Concordia)

Recent advances in genome editing, cell engineering and bioorthogonal chemistry allow the use of proteins as stand-alone devices or as central components of integrated systems. By modulating and controlling the powerful molecular machines that proteins are, it becomes possible to design sensitive biochemical tools and complex systems with innovative functions to meet society’s needs for sustainable health and green biotechnologies. PROTEO researchers aim to develop modified proteins as green catalysts for industrial and (bio)pharmaceutical chemistry as well as protein components for biomedical diagnostics. These innovations can be integrated into biological systems, such as modified microorganisms, and a broad spectrum of new bioproducts and bioprocesses becomes accessible. Given the expertise of its members in synthetic biology, directed evolution, and computational protein design, PROTEO is already in an enviable position on the international scene to have a strong impact in this innovative research space. The research activities of Axis 2 are fueled by the discoveries of Axis 1 and offer unique innovation opportunities for high value-added processes with the support of Axis 3 researchers, thus illustrating PROTEO’s strategic value chain.

Theme 3. Biofabrication, bioprocessing and scaling up to enhance discoveries

Axis leaders: Gregory De Crescenzo (Polytechnique) and Patrick Vermette (U. Sherbrooke)

Scientific breakthroughs and innovative approaches in protein engineering and synthetic biology are supported and valorized within PROTEO by the presence of an integrated critical mass of experts in biomanufacturing and bioprocess engineering. On the one hand, the researchers of Axis 3 aim at developing and supporting the production of various value-added biomolecules in sufficient quantity and quality in order to support the realization of validation studies and to accelerate the application of technologies stemming from the scientific community. On the other hand, proteins being the biological catalysts at the heart of bioprocesses, the scaling up of innovations in bioengineering is essential to lead to the deployment of viable solutions to critical issues of Quebec society, such as the replacement of chemical synthesis by eco-responsible processes, as well as the valorization of industrial biomass waste. These objectives are supported by the presence of recognized expertise in applied bioengineering, by the development of advanced analytical tools, and by access to state-of-the-art infrastructures. By ensuring close collaboration between the three axes through targeted actions, the principles of scalability are integrated from the very first stages of research, thus ensuring that the innovation resulting from PROTEO’s scientific breakthroughs quickly has an impact on Québec society.