Research in the (g)kenney lab focuses on identifying microbial enzymes and natural products that employ previously unknown chemistry. Microbes are talented chemists that have had billions of years to explore fascinating and often unexpected chemical approaches, relying on evolution to develop enzymes exquisitely well-suited to carry out challenging reactions. But many proteins remain uncharacterized, even in well-known organisms like Escherichia coli, while the genomes of poorly studied microbes are dominated by genes encoding “predicted” or “hypothetical” proteins. This represents a vast pool of untapped microbial chemistry.
Drawing on Dr. Kenney's background in enzyme discovery, this research group will apply computational approaches to identify intriguing but unstudied protein families encoded in microbial genomes. A wide range of biochemical, biophysical and bioinorganic techniques will be used to explore the reactivity of these enzymes and the products that they make. The projects pursued in the (g)kenney lab will uncover new (bio)chemistry, answer fundamental questions about microbial physiology, engineer new biological systems, and lead to new drug candidates.