Barra Group

Chemical Biology

Understanding the genetic and enzymatic basis of non-canonical natural product biosynthetic pathways will enable the development of novel biocatalysts for sustainable production of pharmaceuticals, as well as the genome-based discovery of novel lead structures for drug development.
Tenure-Track-Prof. Dr. Lena Barra

We are fascinated by Nature's ability to craft specialized metabolites with spectacular molecular architectures. These genetically encoded and evolutionary optimized small molecules often exhibit potent biological activities and equip human societies to combat infectious and immunological diseases, carcinosis or help to protect crops for the food supply.

We investigate the genetic and enzymatic basis of specialized metabolism with a focus on the discovery of novel enzymes and unprecedented chemistries in non-canonical natural product pathways. Therefore, we utilize an interdisciplinary methodological approach and combine state-of-the-art techniques from organic synthesis, mass spectrometry-guided metabolomics, genomics and bioinformatics, and enzymology to identify novel enzyme-mediated biosynthetic pathways, investigate their mechanism on a molecular level and apply the obtained knowledge for biocatalyst development and genome-based natural product discovery.

With our work, we aim to contribute to two urgent research areas with wide environmental and societal concerns: a) the development of sustainable productions platforms for the synthesis of pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals, and b) the discovery of novel lead structures for antiinfective drug development.