Prof. Philipp Kukura


The title of his talk is "Weighing molecules with light".

The lecture will be presented on Thursday June 8, 2023 at 2 pm, J.Heyrovský Institute, Rudolf Brdička Lecture Hall.    

Interactions between biomolecules control the processes of life in health, and their malfunction in disease, making their characterization and quantification essential to our understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms. I will introduce mass photometry, the accurate mass measurement of individual molecules in solution by light scattering, as a general approach for studying biomolecular mechanisms. I will illustrate the reach of mass photometry by demonstrating its applicability to both nucleic acids and membrane proteins in addition to lipids, sugars and polypeptides, thereby covering the majority of biomolecules. Combination of this broad applicability with the ability to accurately determine the relative amounts of species in complex mixtures without the need for labels or other sample modifications results in a universal method to study interaction stoichiometries, energetics and kinetics. More trivially, although no less powerful, I will show that mass photometry sets new standards for evaluating sample homogeneity, which will likely have considerable impact on structural biology workflows, and in vitro studies of protein function and regulation more generally. Taken together, these results establish mass photometry as an extremely powerful, solution-based, label-free, yet single molecule method to quantify and thereby study biomolecular structure and interactions. In combination with future improvements in both technical capabilities and assays, mass photometry could make significant headway in the future towards the dream of revealing biomolecular mechanisms directly at the molecular level.

Philipp Kukura is Professor of Chemistry and Fellow of Exeter College at the University of Oxford. He received an MChem from the University of Oxford (2002) and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley (2006). After postdoctoral work at ETH Zurich, he joined the Chemistry Department at the University of Oxford as Research Fellow (2010) before becoming a Lecturer (2011), and promotion to full Professor (2016). Honours and awards include the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2018), the Klung- Wilhelmy Science award in Chemistry (2018), the Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists UK in Chemistry (2019), and the Emil Thomas Kaiser Ward by the Protein Society (2022). He is the founder of Refeyn Ltd, which has commercialised and thereby enabled broad access to Mass Photometry. His current research focusses on the application of light microscopy combined with mass measurement at the single molecule level to study biomolecular structure and interactions.