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April 25, 2013

Faculty conversations: Tim Whitehead

Tim Whitehead only recently joined the MSU faculty and has already received a National Science Foundation award for his work with proteins.

“It’s a great honor,” said Whitehead. “It’s very exciting to earn this very early in my career.”

Whitehead’s laboratory is geared toward converting biomass into next-generation fuels and chemicals, and also developing proteins for a wide range of treatment areas.

The project he was awarded for was called “Programming Proteins,” in which he used computational design and deep sequencing of hundreds of thousands of different proteins to optimize their functions for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

Whitehead said factors in his decision to settle into MSU were the next generation DNA sequencers he now relies on for his research, and also the Michigan Biotechnology Institute facility just south of campus.

“If you have a product you want to make, they can look at it, evaluate the commercial potential for it and de-risk it to scale up your process, which is really exciting,” said Whitehead. “The ability to have that on campus is pretty much unique across the institutions of the U.S.”

Currently, Whitehead and his team are working toward designing proteins to bind to and inhibit a novel breast cancer target.

By: Zack Pena