Team Members

Centre for Programmable Biological Matter

The Centre for Programmable Biological Matter, managed by Prof Jonathan Heddle, consists of the Heddle, Bentham and Lin Labs, each with its own focus. The Research Area gives more detail on the type of research being carried out in each of these labs. Jonathan is also responsible for the Heddle Lab in Poland.

Meet the Team

Lab Leaders

Jonathan Heddle

I have expertise in biochemistry, enzymology, antibacterial drugs, structural biology and nanotechnology using biological molecules (bionanotechnology). In the past I worked in conjunction with academia and industry on using proteins to develop new, smaller, faster nanocircuitry.
Now, with my own lab I am looking at developing new types of biologically based nanomaterials and therapeutic agents. This includes using DNA origami as well as developing artificial, programmable protein nanostructures.  In addition, I am interested in understanding and treating age-related disease.

Jagiellonian University Lab

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Adam Bentham
Assistant Professor

I am an enthusiastic structural biologist with a passion for finding new methods for solving biological problems. I received my PhD in Structural Biology in 2018, researching plant immune receptors under Prof. Bostjan Kobe at the University of Queensland, Australia, before moving to Norwich, UK, for my postdoctoral research. At the John Innes Centre, and later at The Sainsbury Laboratory, I used structural biology and biophysics to understand the molecular basis of plant-pathogen interactions that underlie plant diseases. In my role as an Assistant Professor at the CPBM, I lead and assist in research programmes centred around protein design and biomolecular interactions, with a particular interest in using AI-based software to generate new-to-nature proteins with novel functions.

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Ting-Yu Lin
Assistant Professor

As an Assistant Professor, I am in charge of the lab, including teaching, supervising students, and applying for funding. This involves teaching preparation, daily basis meeting with lab members and discuss progress. I also provide tutorials to students for training on scientific writing, figure preparation and wrapping up for research article publications.

RNA modification is a way to expand nucleotide structure diversity to fulfil different functions. In the Lin lab, we study mechanisms on how RNA modifying enzymes select their RNA targets by obtaining cryo-electron microscopy structures details. This will be the basis for customised RNA modifications for bioengineering purposes. 


Support Team

Lucy Epton, BSc
Laboratory Manager

As Laboratory Manager for the Centre for Programmable Biological Matter, I am responsible for creating an enjoyable and functional environment for our researchers. This involves ensuring the smooth operation of laboratory processes, managing budgets, and seeking funding opportunities to support our ongoing research. My previous experiences have led me to hold a keen interest in sustainability, and one of my key goals is to make our laboratories at CPBM as environmentally friendly as possible.

Abbie Kelly, PhD
Technical Manager

I am the Technical Manager for the CPBM at Durham University. Both my PhD and previous PDRA position have focused on protein expression, purification and characterisation. In the CPBM, I get to look after all our shiny new toys and help the group to run smoothy. I also dabble in H&S.

Bronwen Kruger

As the administrator of the Centre for Programmable Biological Matter, I handle a variety of administrative tasks to assist with the organisation and coordination of operations for the team. I manage travel arrangements, events, visiting students and Jonathan’s calendar. It is an exciting and new environment to work in!

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Laura Musgrove, MSc
Senior Technician

I am the group’s Senior Technician with a background in protein production, cell culture and biochemistry. I completed my BSc in Physiology and my MSc(Res) in Biomedical Science before working as a technician in various structural biology groups, working with proteins ranging from membrane proteins to large protein complexes. I am an expert in solving technical and logistical problems to facilitate research and keep the lab running smoothly and have a special interest in methods development. On the side I am also working on a collaborative project with Ting developing DARPins as tools for structural study of small proteins

Research Team

Ahmed Ahmed, PhD
Post-doctoral Research Assistant

I joined the Heddle group as a post-doctoral research associate in October 2023. Before joining this group, I completed my doctoral studies at Aalto University, Finland in Biohybrid Materials group (Prof. Mauri A. Kostiainen). The doctoral studies focused on creating hybrid nanomaterials based on electrostatic interactions using DNA origami and protein cages as starting materials.

Here at Durham, I'm excited to continue the topogami project, where we design catenated DNA origami structures to build functional biological machines for therapeutic use. Additionally, I'm involved in exploring the TRAP cages' potential for creating crystalline assemblies for co-localisation of catalytic enzymes (It's like building tiny and ordered enzyme gyms, where they can work out together and break down molecules more efficiently!!).

Beyond research, when I'm not wrangling microscopic DNA origami on a TEM or designing enzyme gyms, you might find me watching a cricket match, an F1 race, or listening to idiosyncratic music playlist or science podcasts (especially Radiolab and Crowdscience).

Thomas Bradford, PhD
Post-doctoral Research Assistant

A postdoctoral researcher in the Heddle group, and the Centre for Programable Biological Matter’s resident chemist. My background is in the design and evaluation of molecular nanomachines, specifically focusing on using laser scanning confocal microscopy to study how nanotechnology interacts with biological systems. My current work in the CPBM joins both the artificial protein and DNA/Lipids subgroups - developing new self-propelled biological nanomachines. Working towards future therapeutic applications of bio-nanotechnology such as cancer treatments and drug delivery. While also providing any required “chemistry-adjacent” support - such as synthetic troubleshooting and live cell fluorescence microscopy studies.

Sam Firth, PhD
Post-doctoral Research Assistant

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Heddle group. I have a background in biochemistry and microbiology, having previously worked on metal toxicity in pathogenic bacteria. These skills can be implemented directly into the work I am doing in the Heddle group. Here, I aim to characterise exotic DNA gyrase proteins located in the subcellular apicoplast, a plastid located within parasites. By understanding the function of these exotic gyrases, we hope to be able to develop novel anti-parasitic agents to combat diseases such as malaria and toxoplasmosis.

Olivia Gittins, PhD
Post-doctoral Research Assistant

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Heddle group with a background in structural biology, particularly cryo-EM. My work is focussed on cryo-EM structural studies of DNA Gyrase with the aim of building a movie of how the enzyme carries out its catalytic cycle. Using new information about the structure and function Gyrase, we hope to develop new antibiotics or combat resistance mechanisms to existing antibiotics.

Jonathon Liston, PhD
Post-doctoral Research Assistant

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Heddle group with a background in structural biology, microbiology and biochemistry. My previous work focussed on antibiotic mechanism of action and resistance, but now I am working to use protein design tools to create new-to-nature proteins for a range of functions, especially for use in our protein cages, expanding their use for more diverse functions.

Zuzanna Pakosz-Stepien, PhD
Post-doctoral Research Assistant

I am a post-doctoral researcher in Heddle Lab. After working with novel therapeutics company, I have returned to academia to study protein cage structures (TRAP-cages). As my main goal is to apply them for biomedical purposes, such as drug delivery systems, I focus on tailoring their properties and architecture on a nanoscale level.

Shah Rahman, PhD
Post-doctoral Research Assistant

De novo protein design methods to improve in vitro transcribed mRNA (IVT mRNA) storage stability and programmable delivery.

Piotr Stepien, PhD
Post-doctoral Research Assistant

Leader of the Origami DNA subgroup with expertise in DNA nanotechnology, membrane mimetic systems, conjugation chemistry and various spectroscopic techniques. Interplay between proteins and lipids always fascinated me so why not add DNA into the mix? Add to this my passion for LEGO bricks and the only answer is bionanoscience! In Heddle lab I am building DNA-protein-lipid nanorobots for enhanced membrane protein control, novel vaccines and structural biology. My other interests include Electron Paramagnetic Resonance and making music — that’s why they call me true resonance man.

Ermando Canga
PhD Student

I’m a PhD student investigating DNA topoisomerases with particular focus on gyrase. I graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Microbiology and Pharmacology at the University of Strathclyde Glasgow in 2023. At Durham University my research investigates the interactions of the CcdA/B toxin-antitoxin system with gyrase as we hope to potentially discover novel antimicrobial approaches. Also, part of my project involves the study of human topo II as anticancer target.

Sarah Hutchings
PhD Student

I'm a PhD student in the lipid and DNA subgroup of the Heddle lab. I graduated with BSc in biochemistry from York University in 2020, and then worked at a biotechnology company before joining the group. I’m interested in building new biological machines and how molecular machines interact and work on a biochemical basis.

Artemis Sanderson
PhD Student

I am PhD student with a background in biochemistry and microbiology. Previously my work was on characterising bacterial metabolic and synthesis pathways. However here I am throwing synthetic biology into the mix and primarily working with the DNA origami subgroup to design and synthesise self-propelled DNA-based nanomachines. While only in the preliminary stages of development, there are many opportunities for further modifications and designs, which in turn open many potential future applications in targeted therapeutics, biosensing, and drug delivery.