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Huimin Zhao

Deep-learning algorithm aims to accelerate protein engineering

September 29, 2021

Proteins are the molecular machines of all living cells and have been exploited for use in many applications, including therapeutics and industrial catalysts. To overcome the limitations of naturally occurring proteins, protein engineering is used to improve protein characteristics such as stability and functionality. In a new study, researchers demonstrate a machine learning algorithm that accelerates the protein engineering process.


September 29, 2021


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Portable, affordable, accurate, fast: Team invents new COVID-19 test

May 19, 2021

A new coronavirus test can get accurate results from a saliva sample in less than 30 minutes, researchers report in the journal Nature Communications. Many of the components of the hand-held device used in this technology can be 3D-printed, and the test can detect as little as one viral particle per 1-microliter drop of fluid.


May 19, 2021


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Direct cloning method CAPTUREs novel microbial natural products

February 19, 2021

Microorganisms possess natural product biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) that may harbor unique bioactivities for use in drug development and agricultural applications. However, many uncharacterized microbial BGCs remain inaccessible. Researchers at Illinois previously demonstrated a technique using transcription factor decoys to activate large, silent BGCs in bacteria to aid in natural product discovery.


February 19, 2021


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Genome-editing tool TALEN outperforms CRISPR-Cas9 in tightly packed DNA

January 28, 2021

Researchers used single-molecule imaging to compare the genome-editing tools CRISPR-Cas9 and TALEN. Their experiments revealed that TALEN is up to five times more efficient than CRISPR-Cas9 in parts of the genome, called heterochromatin, that are densely packed. Fragile X syndrome, sickle cell anemia, beta-thalassemia and other diseases are the result of genetic defects in the heterochromatin.


January 28, 2021


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$20M NSF grant, new artificial intelligence institute for molecule synthesis

August 28, 2020

A team led by Steven L. Miller Chair professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering Huimin Zhao (BSD leader/CABBI/MMG) was awarded a five-year $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the NSF Artificial Intelligence (AI) Institute for Molecular Discovery, Synthetic Strategy and Manufacturing (Molecule Maker Lab Institute or MMLI).


August 28, 2020


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Triple-Threat Genetic Toolkit for Producing Eco-Friendly Chemicals

March 27, 2020

Researchers have developed a triad of innovative tools to engineer low-pH-tolerant yeast Issatchenkia orientalis for production of valuable bioproducts from renewable biomass.

A paper published in Metabolic Engineering outlines the study’s three-pronged approach and its importance to the field of sustainable chemical production.


March 27, 2020


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For CRISPR, tweaking DNA fragments yields highest efficiency rates yet

January 2, 2020

University of Illinois researchers achieved the highest reported rates of inserting genes into human cells with the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system, a necessary step for harnessing CRISPR for clinical gene-therapy applications.

By chemically tweaking the ends of the DNA to be inserted, the new technique is up to five times more efficient than current approaches. The researchers saw improvements at various genetic locations tested in a human kidney cell line, even seeing 65% insertion at one site where the previous high had been 15%.


January 2, 2020


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