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About us How to find us prof. dr. G.J. (Gerrit) Poelarends

prof. dr. G.J. Poelarends

Professor of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology
prof. dr. G.J. Poelarends
Telephone:
E-mail:
g.j.poelarends rug.nl

Personal Details
 

Name & titels         Prof. dr. Gerrit Jan Poelarends

Date of birth           January 8, 1971, Ommen, The Netherlands

Citizenship             Dutch (The Netherlands)

Marital status         Married, 3 children

Private address      Rembrandtstraat 80, 7731 SG Ommen, The Netherlands,

                               Tel: +31-(0)529-454117

Office address       Antonius Deusinglaan 1, 9713 AV Groningen,

                               The Netherlands,

                               Tel: +31-(0)50-3633354, Fax: +31-(0)50-3633000,

                               E-mail: g.j.poelarends@rug.nl , website: www.farmbio.nl

Education
 

1989   Atheneum, Jan van Arkel, Hardenberg, NL

1994   M.Sc., Biology-Biochemistry, University of Groningen, NL

2001   Ph.D., Dept. of Biochemistry, University of Groningen, NL

 
Postdoctoral Training
 

Jan 2000 – Feb 2002      Dept. of Microbiology, University of Groningen, NL

March 2002 – Oct 2004  Div. of Medicinal Chemistry, University of Texas at Austin, TX, USA

Nov 2004 – Sept 2006    Dept. of Biochemistry, University of Groningen, NL

 
Academic Appointments
 

Oct 2006 – June 2012     Assistant Professor, Dept. of Pharmaceutical Biology, University of Groningen, NL

July 2012 – July 2017         Associate Professor, Dept. of Pharmaceutical Biology, University of Groningen, NL

August 2017 – present  Full Professor, Dept. of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Biology, University of Groningen, NL

 
International Activities
 
  • 2.5 years in the Div. of Medicinal Chemistry, Univ. of Texas at Austin, TX, USA
  • Attended many international scientific meetings (1994-present)
  • EU research support, with international collaborations (2008, 2015-2017)

 

Other Academic Activities
 
  • Teaching Cell Biology and Biochemistry for students Pharmacy (~150 students/yr)
  • Coordination and teaching of course Organic and Biosynthesis (~150 students/yr)
  • Coordination and teaching of course Pharmaceutical Biotechnology (~10 students/yr)
  • Supervision of Bachelor and Master students with their research projects
  • Supervision of Graduate students: (co)-promotor of several ongoing projects
  • Management – group leader of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology group
  • Member of the exam committee of Pharmacy (2007-2017)
  • Ad hoc journal reviewer for several journals
  • Opponent of several Ph.D. theses at the University of Groningen

 

Memberships
 
  • American Chemical Society
  • Dutch Biotechnological Society
  • Study group Protein Research of NWO-CW
  • Study group Biomolecular Chemistry of NWO-CW

 

Grants and Awards
 
  • Innovational research grant (personal VENI grant) from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Titel of the grant: “Design and selection of biocatalysts for amination reactions”. Period covered: 01-11-2004 until 31-05-2007.

  • Innovational research grant (personal VIDI grant) from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Title of the grant: “Exploiting catalytic promiscuity: the tautomerase superfamily active site as a scaffold for new biocatalysts”. Period covered: 01-06-2007 until 01-06-2012.

  • Collaborative Project grant from the European Union (EU-FP7-CP grant). Titel of the grant: “Metagenomics for bioexploration: Tools and application”. Period covered: 2009-2014. Investigators: Prof. Dr. J.D. van Elsas, and 17 other partners, including Prof. Dr. G.J. Poelarends.

  • Starting Independent Research Grant from the European Research Council (personal ERC-2009-Starting Grant). Titel of the grant: "Bridging between organocatalysis and biocatalysis: The powerful enamine mechanism of organocatalysts engineered into the tautomerase superfamily scaffold". Period covered: 01-05-2010 until 01-05-2015.

  • Honorary Scholarship’ from the University of Groningen, which was awarded to all candidates reaching the second (interview) round in the prestigious ERC-2009-Starting Grant competition.

  • ECHO project grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Title of the grant: "Engineering of methylaspartate ammonia lyase for synthesis of unnatural amino acids". Period covered: 11-10-2010 until 11-10-2012.

  • ALW project grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Title of the grant: "Importance of plasticity residues for natural and laboratory evolution of promiscuous protein functions". Period covered: 2011-2015. Investigators: Prof. Dr. W.J. Quax and Prof. Dr. G.J. Poelarends.

  • KIEM project grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific research (NWO). Title of the grant: “Environmentally friendly synthesis of complex amino acids: Enzymatic synthesis of 3-aryl and 3-aryloxy substituted aspartic acid derivatives starting from readily available fumaric acids”. Period covered: 01-04-2014 until 01-10-2014.

  • Collaborative project grant from the European Union (H2020-LEIT-BIO-2014-1). Titel of the grant: “Sustainable industrial processes based on a C-C bond-forming enzyme platform”. Period covered: 01-04-2015 until 31-03-2019. Investigators: Prof. Dr. G.J. Poelarends, and 13 other partners.

  • KIEM project grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific research (NWO). Title of the grant: “Efficient synthesis of selective inhibitors of glutamate transporters”. Period covered: 16-06-2016 until 16-12-2016.

  • ECHO project grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Title of the grant: "Exploiting enzyme promiscuity for biocatalysis: Engineering novel ‘Michaelases’ for carbon-carbon bond formation". Period covered: 01-07-2016 until 01-07-2020.

  • Proof of Concept grant from the European Research Council (personal ERC-2015-PoC). Acronym of the grant: "SynBioGABA". Period covered: 01-07-2016 until 01-10-2017.

  • International training networks grant from the European Union (H2020-MSCA-ITN-2016). Title of the grant: "Harnessing the power of enzymatic oxygen activation". Period covered: 01-01-2017 until 01-01-2021. Investigators: Prof. Dr. G.J. Poelarends, and 10 other partners.
  • Cofund project grant from the European Union (H2020-MSCA-COFUND-2016). Title of the grant: "Personalised Medicine in Diabetic Chronic Disease Management". Period covered: 2017 until 2021. Investigators: Prof. Dr. G.J. Poelarends, and 15 other partners.
  • Innovational research grant (personal VICI grant) from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Title of the grant: “Modular synthetic enzyme cascades for the production of pharmaceutically active γ-aminobutyric acids”. Period covered: 2017 until 2022.

 

Selection of research presentations
 
  • Probing Molecular Interactions and Mechanisms at the Chemistry/Biology Interface (Tällberg, Sweden, Nov 2016). Title of presentation: "Engineering enzymes to control substrate and catalytic promiscuity".

  • Gordon Research Conference on Biocatalysis (Biddeford, ME, USA, July 2016). Title of presentation: "Exploiting catalytic promiscuity: Design of novel biocatalysts for carbon-carbon bond formation".

  • Netherlands' Catalysis and Chemistry Conference (Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands, March 2016). Title of presentation: "Exploiting catalytic promiscuity: Design of novel biocatalysts for C-C bond formation".

  • European Symposium on Biological and Organic Chemistry - ESBOC (Gregynog, Wales, May 2015); Title of presentation: "Design of novel biocatalysts for carbon-carbon bond formation".

  • Transam 2.0 - Chiral Amines Through (Bio)Catalysis Conference (Greifswald, Germany, March 2015); Title of presentation: "Enzymatic Synthesis of Substituted Aspartic Acids".

  • Enzyme Mechanisms Conference (Galveston, TX-USA, January 2015); Title of presentation: "Design of proline-based biocatalysts for C-C bond formation: From catalytic promiscuity to protein mutability landscapes".

  • International Congress on Biocatalysis (Hamburg, Germany, September 2014); Title of presentation: ”Discovery and engineering of new enzymes for carbon-nitrogen bond formation".

  • Texas Enzyme Mechanisms Conference (Austin, TX-USA, January 2014); Title of presentation: "Exploiting catalytic promiscuity: Design of proline-based biocatalysts for C-C bond formation".

  • Biotrans (Manchester, UK, July 2013); Title of presentation: "Exploiting catalytic promiscuity: Design of new biocatalysts for carbon-carbon bond formation".

  • International Congress on Biocatalysis (Hamburg, Germany, September 2012); Title of presentation: “New promiscuous C-C bond-forming activities of 4-oxalocrotonate tautomerase ”.

  • Protein engineering conference (Greifswald, Germany, August 2012); Title of presentation: "Engineering ammonia lyases for asymmetric synthesis of amino acids".

  • Biotrans (Berne, Switzerland, July 2009); Title of presentation: "4-Oxalocrotonate Tautomerase: A Small Promiscuous Template for Natural and Laboratory Evolution of New Enzymes".

  • Enzyme Engineering XIX conference (Harrison Hot Springs, BC, Canada, September 2007); Title of presentation: “Catalytic promiscuity and the divergence of enzyme activity in the tautomerase superfamily”.

  • International Congress on Biocatalysis (Hamburg, Germany, September 2006); Title of presentation: “ The Impact of Catalytic Promiscuity on the Evolution of Enzymes”.

  • International Network of Protein Engineering Centers (Elsinore, Denmark, June 2006); Title of presentation: “Exploiting catalytic promiscuity: the tautomerase superfamily active site as a scaffold for new biocatalysts”.

  • Gordon Research Conference on Enzymes, Coenzymes, and Metabolic Pathways (Meriden, NH, USA, July 2003); Title of presentation: “New reactions in the tautomerase superfamily: malonate semialdehyde decarboxylase and cis- and trans-3-chloroacrylic acid dehalogenase”.

  • European Congress on Biotechnology (Brussels, Belgium, June 1999); Title of presentation: “Novel mechanisms of carbon halogen bond cleavage in haloaliphatic compounds”. 

 

Research profile/Track-Record
 

Gerrit J. Poelarends received his PhD degree from the University of Groningen (RUG) in 2001 with Professor Dick B. Janssen. At the RUG, he worked on the isolation and characterization of the first pure bacterial cultures capable of utilizing 1,3-dichloropropene and 1,2-dibromoethane, two important environmental pollutants, as sole sources of carbon and energy (see Poelarends et al., 1998, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 64:2931-2936; Poelarends et al., 1999, J. Bacteriol. 181:2050-2058). This work would later pique the interests of others, and expand our understanding of the evolution and distribution of xenobiotic degrading activities (see Poelarends et al., 2000, J. Bacteriol. 182: 2191-2199; Poelarends et al., 2000, J. Bacteriol. 182:2725-2731; Poelarends et al., 2001, J. Bacteriol. 183: 4269-4277).

He then worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Professors Wil N. Konings and Arnold J.M. Driessen at the RUG, where he tackled mechanistic questions on bacterial multidrug efflux systems. This work provided evidence for the broad substrate specificity and the aqueous nature of the solute translocation path in ATP-driven multidrug transporters and the important role of acidic residues in proton translocation by secondary multidrug efflux systems (see Mazurkiewicz et al., 2002, J. Biol. Chem. 277:26081-26088; Poelarends et al., 2002, J. Biol. Chem. 277:42891-42898; Mazurkiewicz et al., 2004, J. Biol. Chem. 279:103-108). [For overviews of this work, see Poelarends et al., 2000, Drug Resist. Updat. 3:330-334; Konings and Poelarends, 2002, IUBMB Life 53:213-218; Poelarends et al., 2002, Biochim. Biophys. Acta. 1555:1-7.]

Subsequently, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Christian P. Whitman at the University of Texas at Austin (USA), where he tackled mechanistic and evolutionary questions about the enzymes comprising the tautomerase superfamily. From this period, he has numerous publications on enzymes and the structural factors that dictate activity (see Poelarends et al., 2003, J. Biol. Chem. 278:48674-48683; Poelarends et al., 2004, Biochemistry 43:759-772; Poelarends et al., 2004, Biochemistry 43:7187-7196; Poelarends et al., 2004, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 126:15658-15659; Poelarends et al., 2005, Biochemistry 44:9375-9381; Poelarends et al., 2006, Biochemistry 45:7700-7708). This work led to the identification of new reactions in the tautomerase superfamily, provided evidence for the important role of catalytic promiscuity in the emergence of new enzymes, and revealed new mechanisms for enzyme-catalyzed dehalogenation and decarboxylation reactions (for an overview of this work see: Poelarends and Whitman, 2004, Bioorg. Chem. 32:376-392). The contribution of Dr. Poelarends to the dehalogenase field was recognized by others and led, for example, to an invited lecture at the Gordon Research Conference on Enzymes, Coenzymes, and Metabolic Pathways (2003) and an invited chapter on microbial dehalogenases included in the prestigious work Comprehensive Natural Products Chemistry II edited by Lew Mander and Hung-Wen Liu (published in 2010).

Dr. Poelarends was appointed as an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Biology at the RUG in 2006, and was promoted to associate professor in 2012 and full professor in 2017. His current research interests are in the field of biocatalysis with a focus on the discovery and design of new protein catalysts and on the answers to the fundamental question: how do enzymes evolve? One research line focuses on the selection, characterization, and development of new biocatalysts for asymmetric addition reactions that lead to chiral amino acids with synthetically and/or pharmacologically useful properties (see Weiner et al., 2008, Chem. Eur. J. 14:10094-10100; Raj et al., 2009, ChemBioChem. 10:2236-2245; Fibriansah et al., 2011, Biochemistry 50:6053-6062; Raj et al., 2012, Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 94:385-397; Raj et al., 2012, Nat. Chem.  4:478-484; Puthan Veetil et al., 2012, Biochemistry 51:4237-4243). Another research line is aimed at exploring the abundance of promiscuous enzyme activities, their mechanisms, and possible relevance as evolutionary starting points for both natural and laboratory evolution of new enzymes (see Wasiel et al., 2010, Biochemistry 49:7572-7581; Zandvoort et al., 2011, ChemBioChem 12:602-609; Baas et al., 2011,  Biochemistry 50:2889-2899; Zandvoort et al., 2012, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 51:1240-1243; Wasiel et al., 2012, ChemBioChem 13:1270-1273; Zandvoort et al., 2012, ChemBioChem 13:1274-1277).

The work of Dr. Poelarends on enzyme engineering has led to invited lectures at the most important international conferences in the areas of biocatalysis, protein engineering, and mechanistic enzymology. The quality of the work of Dr. Poelarends is also reflected in >100 publications (and book chapters) in high impact journals, of which >60 as first or last author. He was awarded prestigious personal VENI-NWO, VIDI-NWO, ERC-StG, ERC-PoC, and VICI-NWO research grants for his innovative enzyme engineering work in 2004, 2006, 2010, 2016, and 2017 respectively.

Last modified:24 March 2020 9.29 p.m.

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