Ingrid PultzView all speakers
Ingrid received her Ph.D. in Microbiology in 2012 and is currently a Senior Research Fellow in the lab of Dr. David Baker at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. Her research interests lie in computer-assisted design and engineering of biological molecules in order to generate new molecules that demonstrate beneficial characteristics. In 2008, Ingrid founded the University of Washington’s iGEM team, and acted as instructor for the team through 2011.
Her current research goal is to engineer and develop the enzyme KumaMax as an oral therapeutic for celiac disease, advancing work that began as an iGEM project by Washington’s 2011 team. She and several others have recently founded a company, Proteus Biologics, based on this technology. Ingrid is the recipient of an ARCS Foundation scholarship, an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and a University of Washington Commercialization Fellowship.
The ability to rationally design enzymes to specifically combat certain diseases, such as celiac disease, has the potential for tremendous advances in medicine. Celiac disease is characterized by intense abdominal pain, malnutrition, and serious illness in 1-2% of the population upon ingestion of dietary gluten. The basis for this disease is an inflammatory immune response to incompletely digested gluten peptides in the intestine. To combat celiac disease, we first identified an enzyme that demonstrates some of the desired properties for an oral therapeutic to treat this disease, and then used advanced computational protein design tools based on the Rosetta Molecular Modeling Suite to engineer the enzyme to harbor the properties that it was lacking. The resulting enzyme, called KumaMax, will break down gluten in the stomach before it can elicit an immune response in the intestine. KumaMax demonstrates all of the characteristics required as an oral therapeutic for celiac disease: stability and activity in the conditions of the human stomach, specificity for gluten protein, and easy production and purification methods. This enzyme is capable of breaking down over 97% of an immunogenic peptide derived from gluten in gastric conditions in less than an hour, demonstrating its potential for use as an oral enzyme therapeutic.