Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Institute for Protein Design Summer Entrepreneurial Intern

Faculty PI Name:

David Baker, Ph.D.

Project or Start-Up Company Name:

De novo Designed Transferring Receptor Minibinder for Blood Brain Barrier Traversal

Lab/Project Website:

Work Location:

Virtual remote; If wet labs open after COVID-19 then J-Wing Health Sciences Building and NanoEngineering and Sciences Building

Work Hours (include times of recurring group meetings, special events, etc.):

Regular Work Week

Overall Program Goal:

Evaluation of commercial opportunities for designed transferrin receptor binding protein as a vehicle for transporting enzymes, small molecule drugs, or biologics across the blood brain barrier for treatment of central nervous system (CNS) disorders.

Intern Project Description and Responsibilities:

The Baker lab members have used de novo computational protein design to generate small proteins (minibinders) which bind to an exposed beta sheet on the human Transferrin Receptor (hTfR) which shuttles interacting proteins across the Blood-Brain-Barrier (BBB), opening up new avenues for drug delivery into the brain. Our designed BBB shuttle protein binds hTfR with nanomolar affinity, is hyperstable and crosses the BBB in an in vitro microfluidic organ-on-a-chip model of the human BBB.  We have established a transgenic mouse model expressing hTfR and are currently investigating the ability of our hTfR minibinder to ferry fluorescent cargo into the brains of hTfR transgenic mice.

Companies such as Genentech and Denali therapeutics have developed antibody technologies that use hTfR as the basis for BBB traversal and payload delivery to the CNS.

Working virtually, an intern is needed to support business case assessment for our novel hTfR minibinder as a BBB traversal and brain delivery vehicle for treatment of either (i) a rare disease such as Hunters disease , or major disease indication such as Alzheimer’s disease.   If wet lab activities are allowed, the intern will support in planning and execution of key animal experiments in collaboration with the IPD in vivo core labs.  If the COVID-19 pandemic allows,  an intern could contribute to both a business case analysis and wet lab work if desired.


Students should have completed basic biochemistry, organic chemistry, and ideally statistics.  Alternatively, students in business or engineering majors that have performed market research analyses in technical industries either in class or outside would also be prioritized. If lab work is desired, the candidate must have prior lab experience preparing buffers and protein purification is needed for the intern to be qualified for lab work.

Level of Independence:

This position will require a reasonably high level of independence

Learning Opportunities:

The intern will learn how to develop a valuation model and target product profile for a drug candidate.  If the intern decides to work in the lab, then there will be an opportunity to become familiar with GLP compliance.