It has been nearly six decades since the structure of double helical DNA, our genetic material, was first unveiled. In addition to insight into the mechanism for copying genetic information, the structure provided a paradigm for recognition of genetic materials, i.e. DNA and RNA, in the way in which the two opposing strands are held together—A pairs with T (or U) and C with G. Though simple in concept, such principles are generally difficult to reduce to practice, in particular for recognition of double helical DNA (or RNA), because of the steep kinetic and thermodynamic barriers imposed by the complementary strand. The talk will highlight the challenges and progress in the field of DNA recognition. In particular, the presentation will highlight our recent work in the design of conformationally-preorganized peptide nucleic acid, a particular class of nucleic acid mimics comprised of a pseudopeptide backbone, for establishing Watson-Crick base-pairing interactions with double helical DNA, and in the expansion of nucleic acid recognition repertoire for modulation of RNA folding patterns and architectures.
Danith received his Bachelor Degree in Chemical Engineering and Minor in Philosophy from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1994. He received his PhD in Organic Chemistry in 1998, also from Georgia Institute of Technology under the supervision of Prof. Gary B. Schuster. He did his postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley and at The Scripps Research Institute under the supervision of Prof. Peter G. Schultz, 1998–2001. He joined the Department of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University in 2001. His research interests lie at the interface of chemistry and biology, with emphasis on the design and development of molecular tools and reagents and their application to addressing mechanistic questions in biology and to the treatment of genetic diseases.