In graduate school Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi became interested in glycobiology and during her post-doctoral work she found ways to combine chemistry and biology to build a better understand of what sugars do in the human body.
Part of her work was studying the activity of endothelial oligosaccharides in promoting cell adhesion at inflammations sites and by modifying the protein and sugar molecules in the walls of living cells she was able to keep these cells from rejecting foreign materials like medical implants.
Joining the faculty at UC-Berkeley in 1996, she continued her work on understanding the glycobiology of infectious diseases like tuberculosis and inflammatory disorders like arthritis. Bertozzi is credited with developing bioorthogonal chemistry, which she describes as any chemical reaction that can occur inside of living systems without interfering with native biochemical processes. These techniques have enabled the study of biomolecules such as glycans, proteins, and lipids in real time in living systems without cellular toxicity and has led to site-specific antibody-drug conjugation technologies.
Working with collaborators from varying disciplines Bertozzi has contributed to the invention a nanoscale cell-injection system that uses carbon nanotubes to deliver molecules into cells, to new methods for cancer immune therapy that can target tumor-specific glycosignatures, and a new method for point-of-care diagnosis of tuberculosis.
In 2015, Bertozzi left Berkeley to become a faculty fellow at Stanford’s newly created ChEM-H as well as being a Professor of Chemistry at the school. In the Bertozzi Lab at Stanford, the focus is on creating new platform technologies that promote the exploration of the interface of chemistry and biology in hopes that it will spawn new medicines and diagnostics that can improve human health, developing technologies for probing natural biology, and roadmaps for the creation of synthetic forms of life engineered to serve human needs. Research is also ongoing as how to apply chemical approaches to study systems that can elude more conventional methods for biological inquiry. Some of the technologies driving this research include bioorthogonal chemistries, site-specific protein modification methods, and synthetic glycopolymers that emulate cell-surface glycoproteins.
Suggested By: Madeleine Jacobs
Written by Angela Goad