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Neha Kamat, December 6

Neha Kemat

Neha Kamat

Assistant Professor
Northwestern University

Harnessing membrane biophysical properties to investigate biological processes and design new therapeutic tools.

December 6

4 PM

Zoom: The link to join will be sent to all faculty, graduate students and postdocs ahead of time and is also available on the course canvas page for those who are registered for the course. If you are not in those groups and wish to join, please contact to request the link. 



Membranes play a vital role in a variety of physiological processes. Recapitulating these processes outside of the cell may allow us to better understand them as well as design an entirely new class of materials that can sense, transport, or target important biological signals and molecules. In this talk, I will present our recent work using model membranes and cell-free expression systems to (1) uncover the role of membrane mechanical properties on the folding of model channel proteins and (2) design a membrane-based nanoparticle that targets certain cancer cell lines. First, I will describe how the incorporation of non-natural amphiphiles, such as diblock copolymers, into artificial membranes allows for fine tuning of membrane physical properties, providing higher levels of control over membrane physical and chemical properties than natural biological molecules can alone. Next, I will describe our recent work to demonstrate how lipid phase separation can be used to spatially control protein presentation onto lipid vesicles. We used this system to study the density dependence of TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL), a model therapeutic protein that exhibits greater cytotoxicity to cancer cells when conjugated onto a vesicle surface than when administered as a soluble protein. Our approach, bridging synthetic biology techniques and model membrane assembly, provides an innovative yet simple method to probe the role of membrane composition and biophysical properties on protein dynamics and to advance the design of drug delivery carriers.


The Kamat Lab's interests lie in constructing minimal systems, or artificial cells, as a tool to understand and recreate certain cellular behaviors. They use emerging engineering methods in material science and synthetic biology to construct in vitro models of cellular membranes that can couple membrane biophysical processes to chemical and genetic processes, yielding new cellular mimetic biomaterials, capable of complex sensing, signaling, and responsive behaviors. Their particular interests lie in understanding the role of the bilayer membrane in mechanical force sensing and designing biosensors for environmental analytes. Neha received a BS in Bioengineering from Rice University and a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently holds a Young Investigator Award from the Air Force Research Office.