Engineering a bacterium for therapy (A Buzzati Traverso lecture 2022/23)

11 April 2023. 
Luis Serrano Pubul, Centre for Genomic Regulation, Barcelona.

At 5.00 pm on the 11th of April 2023 Luis Serrano Pubul will give the 2022/23 Adriano Buzzati Traverso lecture entitled Engineering a bacerium for therapy in the College lecture theatre. The poster of the lecture is available at this link.

Engineering bacteria for treating human diseases presents new opportunities in therapeutics. Although lung diseases are among the top causes for mortality worldwide, there is no treatment for them based on a live biotherapeutic.  We have engineered a genome-reduced human lung bacterium, Mycoplasma pneumoniae (MPN), as a novel treatment for lung diseases encompassing infections, fibrosis and cancer. We found that expression of biologicals by engineered MPN has a limited physiological impact in mice due to its low expression capacity. To solve these issues, we use our protein design software FoldX and ModelX to increase the effective expression in MPN, and the activity in mouse lungs. This rational design strategy of combining synthetic biology with protein design is quite powerful to foster bacterial therapy.


Luis Serrano did his PhD at the CBM (Madrid, Spain) on Cell Biology. Then he spent 4 years in the laboratory of Prof. A.R. Fehrst (MRC, UK) working in protein folding. In 1993, he became Group Leader at the EMBL (Heidelberg, Germany) working in Protein Folding and design. Ten years later, he was appointed head of the Structural & Computational Biology programme at the EMBL and he started to work on Systems Biology. By the end of 2006 he moved back to Spain to lead a programme working on Systems Biology, where he was appointed vice-director before finally becoming the CRG director on July 2011. He is a member of the Spanish Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SEBBM), member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), and member of the Royal Spanish Academy of Sciences (Spain). In 2003 he received the Marie Curie Excellence Award, in 2009 he was awarded the City of Barcelona prize (science category), an annual award organized by Barcelona City Council and in 2018 the Francisco Cobos award (  In recent years he has won sixe prestigious grants from the European Research Council, three ERC Advanced Grants and three ERC Proof of Concept grants. He is Professor of ICREA. He has published more than 350 papers in international journals. He was involved in the creation of one of the first Spanish Biotech Companies (Diverdrugs) in 1999. He is also co-founder of Cellzome, EnVivo, TRISKEL, Pulmobiotics and Orikine biotech companies. He has been Director and Founder of the association of European Institutes of Excellence EU-LIFE ( and he was until 2020 the chair of the association of Spanish institutes of excellence, Severo Ochoa and Maria de Maeztu (SOMMa;

An electron micrograph of M pneumoniae. Courtesy of María Lluch (Centre for Genoic Regulation, Barcelona)

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