Engineering Synthetic Ligands for Molecular Imaging

Benjamin Hackel, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Minnesota

Friday, October 17, 2014, 3:30pm

Spanos Auditorium

This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series.

Non-invasive in vivo imaging at the molecular and cellular scale has transformative clinical potential for the detection, characterization, and monitoring of disease. Molecular imaging necessitates command of molecular recognition, molecular biology of the target, biological transport at the tissue and cellular levels, and detection technology. While the seminar will briefly touch on improved understanding and technological advancement in each of these elements, the focus will be on engineering synthetic binding ligands as molecular targeting agents. In particular, I’ll discuss our algorithm to efficiently evaluate naturally occurring protein domains for their potential evolutionary capacity and the resultant development of a small (45 amino acid) scaffold capable of efficient evolution of novel, high affinity binding functions.

About the Speaker

Ben Hackel is an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Minnesota. He has degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin – Madison (B.S. 2003) and MIT (Ph.D. 2009), where he worked with Dane Wittrup on engineering fibronectin domains as antibody mimics. Prof. Hackel was a postdoctoral fellow in Radiology at Stanford University with Sam Gambhir where he developed molecular probes for cancer detection and characterization via positron emission tomography. Since its inception at the University of Minnesota in 2011, the Hackel lab uses directed evolution to engineer synthetic protein ligands for in vivo targeting and molecular imaging. In addition to his primary appointment, Prof. Hackel is a graduate faculty member of Biomedical Engineering and a member of the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center, the Institute for Engineering in Medicine, and the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute.

For more information, contact Haley Tucker at