Bijan Zakeri is an experienced pharmaceutical industry professional with a passion for coming up with innovative solutions to difficult challenges. Working at the intersection of business and technology, he drives strategic change within organizations through identifying market needs and understanding the voice of the customer to produce new business development opportunities. Bijan is experienced in business management, technical marketing, business development, project management, and people management. He has extensive international experience and experience in working in a large multi-national organization, in addition to his strong business acumen, scientific expertise, and communication skills.
Industry Expertise (1)
Areas of Expertise (6)
University of Oxford: Ph.D., Biochemistry
McMaster University: M.Sc., Chemical Biology
McMaster University: B.Sc., Biochemistry
Selected Media Appearances (1)
From flesh eating bacteria to molecular superglue
TED Talks online
Scientist Bijan Zakeri started studying Streptococcus pyogenes -- the pathogen responsible for diseases from strep throat to scarlet fever -- in the hopes of creating a new generation of antibodies to treat cancer. What he developed instead was completely unexpected: a molecular superglue made from its stone-strong chemical bonds that may change the way we address scientific and medical needs.
Selected Articles (6)
Multiplexed Sequence Encoding: A Framework for DNA CommunicationPLoS ONE
2016 Synthetic DNA has great propensity for efficiently and stably storing non-biological information. With DNA writing and reading technologies rapidly advancing, new applications for synthetic DNA are emerging in data storage and communication. Traditionally, DNA communication has focused on the encoding and transfer of complete sets of information. Here, we explore the use of DNA for the communication of short messages that are fragmented across multiple distinct DNA molecules. We identified three pivotal points in a communication-data encoding, data transfer & data extraction-and developed novel tools to enable communication via molecules of DNA. To address data encoding, we designed DNA-based individualized keyboards (iKeys) to convert plaintext into DNA, while reducing the occurrence of DNA homopolymers to improve synthesis and sequencing processes. To address data transfer, we implemented a secret-sharing system-Multiplexed Sequence Encoding (MuSE)-that conceals messages between multiple distinct DNA molecules, requiring a combination key to reveal messages. To address data extraction, we achieved the first instance of chromatogram patterning through multiplexed sequencing, thereby enabling a new method for data extraction. We envision these approaches will enable more widespread communication of information via DNA.
Synthetic Biology: A New Tool for the TradeChemBioChem
The back cover picture shows a new isopeptide protein assembly technology that allows proteins to be captured with an iron grip. SpyTag/SpyCatcher, isopeptag/pilin-C and isopeptag-N/pilin-N allow proteins to be assembled like building blocks via genetically programmable and irreversible covalent bonds.
DNA nanotechnology: New adventures for an old warhorseCurrent Opinion in Chemical Biology
2015 As the blueprint of life, the natural exploits of DNA are admirable. However, DNA should not only be viewed within a biological context. It is an elegantly simple yet functionally complex chemical polymer with properties that make it an ideal platform for engineering new nanotechnologies. Rapidly advancing synthesis and sequencing technologies are enabling novel unnatural applications for DNA beyond the realm of genetics. Here we explore the chemical biology of DNA nanotechnology for emerging applications in communication and digital data storage. Early studies of DNA as an alternative to magnetic and optical storage mediums have not only been promising, but have demonstrated the potential of DNA to revolutionize the way we interact with digital data in the future.
Synthetic Biology: A New Tool for the TradeChemBioChem
2015 Protein-protein interactions are fundamental to many biological processes. Yet the weak and transient non-covalent bonds that characterize most protein-protein interactions found in nature impose limits on many bioengineering experiments. Here a new class of genetically encodable peptide-protein pairs-isopeptag-N/pilin-N, isopeptag/pilin-C, and SpyTag-SpyCatcher-that interact via autocatalytic intermolecular isopeptide bond formation is described. Reactions between peptide-protein pairs are specific, robust, orthogonal, and able to proceed under most biologically relevant conditions both in vitro and in vivo. As fusion constructs they provide a handle on molecules of interest, both organic and inorganic, that can be grasped with an iron grip. Such stable interactions provide robust post-translational control over biological processes, and open new opportunities in synthetic biology for engineering programmable and self-assembling protein nanoarchitectures
The Limits of Synthetic BiologyTrends in Biotechnology
2014 The pioneering works of Watson, Crick, Wilkins, and Franklin [1,2] on the structure of DNA have captivated our imaginations for over half a century and continue to shape our future endeavors. The genetic code, a mystery for many years, was soon thereafter decoded by organic chemists employing organic synthesis of polynucleotides . Ever since, the construction of DNA has been central to our ability to probe the molecular nature of life. Synthetic biologists now push the limits of what can be engineered using DNA – from scratch if needed: complex genetic circuits, large metabolic pathways, and even whole genomes.
Superglue from Bacteria: Unbreakable Bridges for Protein NanotechnologyTrends in Biotechnology
2014 Biotechnology is often limited by weak interactions. We suggest that an ideal interaction between proteins would be covalent, specific, require addition of only a peptide tag to the protein of interest, and form under a wide range of conditions. Here we summarize peptide tags that are able to form spontaneous amide bonds, based on harnessing reactions of adhesion proteins from the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes. These include the irreversible peptide–protein interaction of SpyTag with SpyCatcher, as well as irreversible peptide–peptide interactions via SpyLigase. We describe existing applications, including polymerization to enhance cancer cell capture, assembly of living biomaterial, access to diverse protein shapes, and improved enzyme resilience. We also indicate future opportunities for resisting biological force and extending the scope of protein nanotechnology.