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2020/07/30. New preprint available on bioRxiv! We report the engineering of a fluorescent biosensor for the rapid, real-time detection of protein expression in vivo, and demonstrate that it enables detection of expression within seconds of induction, over twice as fast as standard fluorescent protein fusion tags, and without affecting the subcellular localization of the protein of interest.

2020/05/22. Dr. Chica is included as part of the "Voices of chemical biology" feature celebrating Nature Chemical Biology's 15th anniversary. More info here.

2020/04/21. Matthew Eason successfully defends his PhD thesis. Congratulations Dr. Eason!

2020/03/20. New preprint available on BioRxiv! In this collaboration with the group of James Fraser at UCSF, we reveal, at high-resolution and ambient conditions, how directed evolution improves activity of a de novo enzyme by tuning the conformational ensemble, and propose a new ensemble-based computational enzyme design procedure.

2020/03/04. Dr. Chica is appointed Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Protein Engineering, Design and Selection, a publication of the Oxford University Press.


2019/11/27. Our paper on the origin of conformational dynamics in DANCER proteins is now available on the website of Communications Biology!

2019/11/21. Dr. Chica was recently invited to write a "Perspective" commentary for Science on a very cool protein design paper by Tanja Kortemme's group (UCSF). Read the commentary here.

2019/09/04. Welcome to new group members Niayesh Zarifi and Ornella Kahasha. More info can be found on group page.

2019/08/29. Congratulations to Olivier Gagnon, who successfully defended his Masters thesis! Olivier now works as a science programmer at the Chemical Computing Group.

2019/07/18. Our latest article is now online on the Green Chemistry website! In this collaborative project with Nicholas Turner's group (U. Manchester), we developed several biocatalytic processes to synthesize a key precursor of the antidiabetic sitagliptin, one of which was enabled by an enzyme engineered in our lab. More details here.

2019/05/15. The first annual retreat of the APRENTICE program was a complete success! Thank you to Dr. David Liu from Harvard for coming to Ottawa to tell us about his exciting research and meet with our students! More info here.

2019/05/07. Congratulations to Adam Damry, who successfully defended his PhD thesis! Adam is now off to join the group of Colin Jackson at the Australian National University. We will miss him!

2019/03/29. Dr. Chica and his collaborators Dr. Corrie daCosta and Dr. Maia Fraser (uOttawa) have been awarded a highly competitive grant from the New Frontiers in Research Fund! This grant will enable the team to develop next-generation biosensors based on ligand-gated ion channels using an approach combining multistate design, directed evolution, and machine learning. More info can be found here.

2019/03/29. Congratulations to grad students Sandrine Legault and Marc Mayer, as well as to undergraduate student Scott Foster, who were awarded NSERC CGS-M, Ontario Graduate, and NSERC USRA Scholarships!

2019/03/21. Our latest article describing the engineering of aminotransferases for biocatalytic synthesis of substituted D-tryptophans is available on the ACS Catalysis website. Congrats to Fabio Parmeggiani from the Nicholas Turner group (U. Manchester) and our very own Curtis Walton for another excellent collaborative project!

2019/02/06. Congratulations to undergraduate student Serena Hunt who is the winner of the 2019 Travel Award to attend the 102nd Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition! She will present her work on the study of structural dynamics in red fluorescent proteins and their link to brightness.

2019/01/24. Dr. Chica is the winner of the 2019 Melanie O'Neill Young Investigator Award in Biological Chemistry from the Canadian Society for Chemistry! This prestigious award is presented to a scientist who, within the first 12 years of obtaining their Ph.D., has made a distinguished contribution to biological chemistry.

2019/01/22. Congratulations to Dr. Aron Broom, who is awarded a prestigious John Charles Polanyi prize in Chemistry! This award is given to outstanding Ontario researchers in the early stages of their career. Aron is working on the development of multistate enzyme design methodologies. More info on the award can be found here.


2018/12/14. Dr. Chica is the recipient of the 2019 Young Investigator Award of the Biophysical Society of Canada! This prominent award is given to a researcher who, within the first 10 years of obtaining an independent position, has made outstanding contributions to biophysics.

2018/12/14. A Nature News & Views commentary article written by Dr. Chica is voted by readers to be included as part of the journal’s choice cuts of the year.

2018/11/22. PhD candidate Tony St-Jacques successfully defends his thesis titled "Engineering of multi-substrate enzyme specificity and conformational equilibrium using multistate computational protein design". Congratulations Dr. St-Jacques!

2018/10/26. Congratulations to undergraduate student Sandrine Legault who won an award at Chemical and Synthetic Biology Day 2018 for her poster on the engineering of brighter red fluorescent proteins!

2018/09/12. Dr. Chica was recently invited to write a News & Views commentary for Nature on a very impressive protein design paper by David Baker and colleagues (U. Washington). More info here.

2018/09/04. Welcome to new group members Dr. Marina Cañellas Fontanilles (PDF), Marc Mayer (MSc), Mykhaylo Slobodyanyuk (MSc), and Rojo Rakotoharisoa (PhD). It's exciting to see our group continue to grow! More information on the Group page.

2018/08/31. Today was the last day of international exchange student Miguel Ángel Maria Solano (Sílvia Osuna group, University of Girona, Spain), who worked with us over the summer on computational enzyme redesign. Farewell and hope to see you soon!

2018/08/28. Our recent article on the structural determinants of the stereoinverting activity of P. stutzeri D-phenylglycine aminotransferase is now online!

2018/08/20. Marc Mayer is awarded an Ontario Graduate Scholarship. Congratulations!

2018/06/27. PhD candidate Curtis Walton successfully defends his thesis. Congratulations Dr. Walton!

2018/06/09. Congratulations to undergraduate student Erin Nguyen, whose article describing her Honours thesis research on red fluorescent protein engineering was selected to receive the "University of Ottawa Science Undergraduate Research Journal Award for Oustanding Article"! The article was also selected for the cover art, and can be found here.

2018/05/18. Congratulations to Sandrine Legault (BSc), Marc Mayer (BSc), and Adam Damry (PhD), who all won awards for their poster presentations at this year's Annual PROTEO Symposium!

2018/04/19. Congratulations to undergraduate student Eric Robert, who won an award for his outstanding Honours research poster describing the engineering of beta-aminotransferase substrate specificity!

2018/04/11. Our NSERC CREATE proposal on Advanced Protein Engineering Training, Internships, Courses, and Exhibition (APRENTICE) has been funded! APRENTICE is a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional training environment in Canada that will provide students with comprehensive training in all aspects of modern protein engineering research.

2018/02/27. Excited to announce that the ProtaBank protein engineering database is now online! It is our hope that ProtaBank will become to protein engineers what the PDB is to structural biologists.

2018/02/12. The program of the 3rd Protein Engineering Canada (PEC) conference has been updated. Check out our list of fantastic speakers here!

2018/02/07. Undergraduate student Sandrine Legault is the recipient of a travel award to attend the 101st Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition, where she will present her Honours thesis research project. Congrats!

2018/01/29. Congratulations to Dr. Aron Broom, who is awarded a highly competitive postdoctoral fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada! Aron is currently working on the development of multistate enzyme design methodologies. Well done!


2017/12/13. Our recent article on the rational design of protein dynamics has been recommended in F1000Prime as being of special significance in its field. More information here.

2017/11/22. Congratulations to PhD student Adam Damry, whose artwork illustrating our rational design of protein dynamics made the cover of the December issue of Nature Chemical Biology!

2017/11/10. The Chica lab Twitter account is now online.

2017/10/27. Undergraduate student Sandrine Legault wins an award for best poster at this year's Chemical and Synthetic Biology Day. Congratulations!

2017/10/23. "Rational design of proteins that exchange on functional timescales" is published online on the Nature Chemical Biology website. In this study, we designed several proteins that can spontaneously exchange between two predefined conformational states in the absence of an external stimulus (see left for more details).

2017/08/18. "Engineered aminotransferase for the production of D-phenylalanine derivatives using biocatalytic cascades" is published online on the ChemCatChem website. In collaboration with the group of Prof. Nicholas Turner (Manchester), we engineered an aminotransferase displaying high catalytic activity towards D-phenylalanine, which we used to develop biocatalytic cascades for the synthesis of various D-phenylalanine derivatives with high enantiomeric excess (90% to >99%) and conversion rate.

2017/06/12. Undergraduate student Erin Nguyen wins an award for best Biological/ Medicinal Chemistry undergraduate poster at this year's Canadian Chemistry Conference & Exhibition, where she presented the research that she conducted during summer 2016. Well done!

2017/05/31. Dr. Chica is invited to present a poster talk in the session on 'Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Protein Dynamics and Allostery' at this year's Gordon Research Conference on Proteins.

2017/05/17. Dr. Chica is invited to present a Contributed Talk at the 31st Annual Symposium of The Protein Society. He will present his work on the rational design of proteins that exchange on functional timescales. See you in Montreal!

2017/05/15. Adam Damry wins a poster award at this year's PROTEO Symposium. Good job!

2017/05/01. Sandrine Legault and Marc Mayer are both awarded NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards to conduct research in our group this summer. Congratulations!

2017/03/17. Matthew Eason and Olivier Gagnon are awarded NSERC PhD and Ontario Graduate scholarships, respectively. Congratulations!

2017/03/03. A preprint describing our rational design of proteins that exchange on functional timescales is now available on bioRxiv.


2016/11/09. Graduate student James Davey succesfully defends his Ph.D. thesis. Congratulations Dr. Davey!

2016/10/26. Adam Damry wins the best oral presentation award at the inaugural Chemical and Synthetic Biology Day. Congratulations Adam!

2016/07/15. James Davey wins an award for best oral presentation at the 99th Canadian Chemistry Conference & Exhibition in Halifax, NS. Congratulations Jamie!

2016/06/20. The 2nd Protein Engineering Canada (PEC) Conference was a huge success! Thank you to all participants for excellent presentations and personal interactions. We hope to see you all in 2018 in Vancouver for the 3rd PEC Conference!

2016/06/19. Adam Damry wins the best oral presentation award at the PEC Conference. Congratulations Adam!

2016/03/18. Dr. Chica is awarded a prestigious Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) grant to fund cutting-edge work by international teams of scientists. The grant will support a collaborative project with 1.0 Million US Dollars over 3 years. The funded project, to be carried out with Andrew Oates (University College London) and Hernan Garcia (UC Berkeley), was among 32 proposals selected out of 871 submitted applications. More information can be found here.

2016/01/01. Dr. Chica has been invited to join the Editorial Advisory Board of Protein Science, the flagship journal of the Protein Society. Members of the Editorial Advisory Board are selected on the basis of their proven expertise in specific areas of research, their integrity, and objectivity.


2015/12/23. "Brighter Red Fluorescent Proteins by Rational Design of Triple-Decker Motif" is published online on the ACS Chemical Biology website. In this study, we used rational design to increase the quantum yield and brightness of red fluorescent proteins by rigidifying the chromophore via the creation of a triple-decker motif of aromatic rings (see figure on left).

2015/12/23. We recently used rational design to increase the quantum yield and brightness of red fluorescent proteins (RFPs) by rigidifying their chromophore via the creation of a triple-decker motif of aromatic rings (see figure below). The best mutant identified displayed an over three-fold improvement relative to the parent RFP and was isolated following the screening of only 48 mutants, a library size that is several orders of magnitude smaller than those previously used to achieve equivalent gains in quantum yield in other RFPs. This study was published in ACS Chemical Biology, and can be found here.

2015/12/07. Graduate student Antonia Pandelieva succesfully defends her M.Sc. thesis. Congratulations Antonia!

2015/09/24. "Prediction of Stable Globular Proteins Using Negative Design with Non-native Backbone Ensembles" is published online on the Structure website. In this study that combines computation with experiment, we developed a computational framework to accurately predict the stability of mutant protein sequences that is based on multistate design with backbone ensembles approximating the folded and unfolded states.

2015/07/01. Congratulations to James Davey and Antonia Pandelieva for winning poster and oral presentation awards at this year's Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhbition. More details can be found here.

2015/06/11. Dr. Chica is awarded an Early Researcher Award from the Government of Ontario. This award is given to prominent young researchers to help them build exceptional research teams by recruiting students, research fellows, technicians and assistants.

2015/03/24. The website for RosettaCON 2015 is now online. Dr. Chica is among the invited speakers of this meeting, which also include Dr. Bill DeGrado (UCSF), Dr. David Baker (U. Washington), Dr. Lillian Chong (U. Pittsburgh) and Dr. Gaël McGill (Harvard Medical School).

2015/03/24. A special issue of Protein Science celebrating the 2014 Protein Engineering Canada Conference is now available online. Dr. Chica guest-edited this special issue and wrote a commentary article to provide background on the meeting and on articles that are included. He also contributed a research article to the special issue.

2015/01/16. Dr. Chica is awarded a CNC-IUPAC Travel Award. More information can be found here.


2014/12/19. "Discovery of Substrates for a SET Domain Lysine Methyltransferase Predicted by Multistate Computational Protein Design" is published online on the Structure website. In this collaboration with the group of Dr. Jean-François Couture, we developed a computational approach to predict the substrate specificity for an enzyme depositing post-translational modifications.

2014/12/11. Dr. Chica is organizing with Dr. Nobuhiko Tokuriki (University of Bristish Columbia) a symposium on Protein Evolution and Engineering at the 98th Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition that will take place in Ottawa, Canada on June 13-17, 2015. For a detailed list of speakers, please click here.

2014/12/11. "Optimization of rotamers prior to template minimization improves stability predictions made by computational protein design" is published online on the Protein Science website.

2014/12/08. Congratulations to Janet Barber for successfully defending her M.Sc. thesis!

2014/08/10. Congratulations to Tony St-Jacques, who is awarded an OGS graduate scholarship.

2014/08/01. "Continuous Colorimetric Screening Assay for Detection of D-Amino Acid Aminotransferase Mutants Displaying Altered Substrate Specificity" published in Analytical Biochemistry.

2014/06/24. Posters from graduate students Janet Barber, Antonia Pandelieva, and Curtis Walton win awards at the inaugural Protein Engineering Canada Conference. Congratulations to all!

2014/05/14. A poster titled "Precise control of amino acid side chain conformation with multistate computational protein design" by Adam Damry wins 1st prize at the PROTEO Annual Symposium in Quebec City. Congratulations Adam!

2014/04/15. Graduate students Adam Damry and Matthew Eason are awarded OGS and NSERC graduate scholarships, respectively. Congratulations!

2014/04/14. Dr. Chica becomes an affiliate of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy of the University of Ottawa.


2013/11/22. "Improving the Accuracy of Protein Stability Predictions With Multistate Design Using a Variety of Backbone Ensembles" published in Proteins: Structure, Function and Bioinformatics.

2013/10/25. Dr. Chica is on the organizing committee of the inaugural Protein Engineering Canada (PEC) symposium to be held at the University of Ottawa on June 20-22, 2014. For more information, please click here.

2013/09/06. Our work in collaboration with the group of Dr. Maxim Berezovski was recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. In this article, we developed a multiplexed capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry assay for aminotransferases and used it to discover new substrates for these enzymes and to measure their kinetic parameters.

2013/07/20. "A High-Throughput Assay for Screening L- or D-amino Acid Specific Aminotransferase Mutant Libraries" published in Analytical Biochemistry.

2013/05/30. James Davey and Matthew Eason (joining the lab in September 2013) have both been awarded an Ontario Graduate Scholarship. Congratulations!

2013/05/17. A poster titled "Native Backbone Ensembles for Multistate Computational Protein Design: A Compu- tational Study of Protein G Domain Beta 1" presented by James Davey at the 13th edition of the PROTEO Annual Symposium wins 1st prize. Congratulations Jamie!

2013/05/16. A poster titled "Modifying the Substrate Specificity of an Aminotransferase Using Computational Protein Design" presented by Tony St-Jacques at the Ottawa-Carleton Chemistry Institute (OCCI) Annual Symposium wins an award. Congratulations Tony!

2013/04/15. Adam Damry is awarded an NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship. He will join the lab as a M.Sc. student in the Fall 2013. Well done!

2013/01/07. Welcome to exchange student Frederic Thiebaut. Frederic hails from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France.


2012/12/21. "Recovery of red fluorescent protein chromophore maturation deficiency through rational design" published in PLoS One.

2012/08/15. "Multistate approaches in computational protein design" published in Protein Science.

2012/12/01. Dr. Chica was interviewed in the context of a documentary on synthetic biology prepared by the University of Ottawa iGEM 2012 team. iGEM is the International Genetically Engineered Machine Foundation. Watch the documentary here.

2012/09/01. Welcome to new students Janet Barber and Andrew Wong. More info on the Group page.

2012/06/12. Dr. Chica becomes an associate member of PROTEO, the Quebec Network for Research on Protein Function, Structure, and Engineering.

2012/06/01. Congratulations to Tony St-Jacques who is awarded an Ontario Graduate Scholarship.

2012/01/27. Congratulations to Honours students Adam Damry and Matthew Eason for winning 1st and 3rd poster prizes at the Ottawa Undergraduate Research Poster Competition. Well done!


2011/11/01. Dr. Chica is on the organizing committee for the 19th Methods in Protein Structure Analysis Conference that will be held in Ottawa, ON, on June 25-28 2012.

2011/09/01. Welcome to new lab member James Davey. More info on the Group page.

2011/06/06. Dr. Chica co-organized a symposium on Protein Engineering & Design at the 94th Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition.

2011/05/01. Welcome to new lab member Tony St-Jacques.

2011/04/25. Congratulations to Tony St-Jacques, who is awarded an NSERC graduate scholarship.

2011/01/24. An article published by Dr. Chica in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA has been selected as a must-read article by the post-publication peer review site Faculty of 1000. This places his work in the top 2% of published articles in biology and medicine. The review can be found here.

2011/01/05. Welcome to new lab member Curtis Walton. More info can be found here.


2010/05/01. Dr. Chica co-founds the BioMOLAR Network with five colleagues from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Ottawa.

2010/03/15. Dr. Chica becomes a member of the Center for Catalysis Research and Innovation.

2010/01/04. Dr. Chica joins the Department of Chemistry at the University of Ottawa.