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Oct - Derek R. Dee

Speaker: Derek R. Dee

Talk Title: Protein aggregation: from prions to food protein nanofibrils

Event Details


Thursday, October 31st, 2019 6:00pm

Affiliation: Assistant Professor, The University of British Columbia


Derek Dee joined the Faculty of Land and Food Systems in January 2019 as an Assistant Professor in Food Science. His research focuses on understanding protein structure and function, and its potential applications in food, biomaterials and medicine.

Dee’s research is an unusual combination of food science and biophysics. His research involves a variety of biochemical, molecular biology and biophysical approaches and offers a training environment that blends basic and applied sciences to better understand and utilize food proteins and enzymes.

His potential collaborators are food scientists, physicists, and computer simulation specialists. One of his current projects is the genetic modification and engineering of protein nanofibrils. Protein nanofibrils are threads of protein only a few molecules wide yet a thousand times longer. They have unique properties which motivate research into how to mimic nature and create new functional materials.


Proteins can adopt various conformations, including native, unfolded, misfolded, and aggregated states. The aggregates can be amorphous or well-ordered, such as amyloid fibrils. In certain cases, fibril formation is associated with disease (e.g., prion diseases, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS). In a growing number of cases, proteins form amyloid fibrils as part of their natural role, serving as functional amyloid. Potentially any protein can be induced to form amyloid-like fibrils, also called nanofibrils. Nanofibrils hold promise for applications ranging from biosensors, nanowires, cell scaffolding, and, perhaps, as food ingredients. The mechanisms of protein aggregation must be better understood in order to prevent amyloid formation, in the case of disease-associated amyloid, or such that it can be controlled, in the case of engineering functional nanofibrils. In this talk, I will describe how a single-molecule approach, using optical tweezers, can be used to map misfolding and aggregation pathways, and how protein nanofibrils may be used in food.

Introductory Speaker: Hossein Asghari (Research Assistant at Hach Lab, Vancouver Prostate Centre)

Talk Title: Accurate and Rapid Detection of Circular RNA through Splice-Aware Pseudo-Alignment Scheme

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