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Dr Seung Seo Lee BSc, MSc, PhD, MRSC

Lecturer in Chemical Biology/Medicinal Chemistry

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Dr Seung Lee is Lecturer in Chemical Biology/Medicinal Chemistry, conducting cutting-edge research projects on antimicrobial resistance and glycoenzymes.

Dr Seung Seo Lee is a chemical biologist, and his research has been focused on the chemical biology/medicinal chemistry of proteins and enzymes involved in post-translational modification of proteins, with a long standing interest in the structure, function and mechanism of signalling pathways involving carbohydrates and carbohydrate processing enzymes. Recently he is using his expertise in chemical biology to tackle antibiotic resistant pathogens through innovative approach to bacterial signalling pathways. These research projects require highly multidisciplinary expertise of chemistry and biology.

Dr Seung Lee obtained his BSc and MSc in chemistry from Seoul National University in South Seoul, Korea. He then worked in the pharmaceutical industry before starting his doctoral study in chemistry at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He obtained his PhD under the supervision of Professor Stephen G Withers, studying the reaction mechanism of glycan processing enzymes.

For his postdoctoral studies, he expanded his skillset to directed evolution techniques with Dr Florian Hollfelder in Department of Biochemistry at University of Cambridge and synthetic carbohydrate chemistry with Professor David R Bundle in the Department of Chemistry at University of Alberta. He then joined Professor Benjamin G Davis' group, working on various projects of chemical biology involving enzymes. In October 2012 he was appointed as a lecturer in Chemistry at University of Southampton.

Research interests

Our current research is focused on the investigation and utilisation of bacterial signalling pathways, and the development of glycoenzymes for high value-added synthesis. For this, we have been employing a large variety of multidisciplinary techniques. Some keywords for our expertise include: 1) chemical biology expertise (chemical probe synthesis, protein chemistry, labelling, phenotype analysis); 2) structural and functional analysis of proteins; 3) General organic, medicinal & carbohydrate chemistry; 4) molecular biology; 5) assay development); 6) enzymatic synthesis; 7) biophysical techniques.

1. Antimicrobial resistance: targeting bacterial signalling pathway

Multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MDRSA), including a vancomycin resistant variant of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a serious concern in patient safety and healthcare system. Antibiotic resistance in Staphylococcus aureus (SA) results from mutations and the acquisition of foreign resistant genes. Resistance is expressed in such a way that SA alters the antibiotic target proteins or antibiotic itself, or pumps out the antibiotic via the efflux mechanism. Thus, existing antibiotics are no longer effective due to these mechanisms. Therefore, it is considered that novel targets and different class of antibiotic molecules are urgently needed to tackle the MDRSA pandemic. We have identified bacterial signalling pathways as a novel target for therapeutic intervention. Particularly, some signalling systems are involved in the development of antibiotic resistance. Thus, these are promising targets for new antibiotics, which are not affected by and can suppress the resistance mechanism. We are expecting our research will lead to a clue to tackling this worldwide problem.

2. Antimicrobial resistance: utilising bacterial signalling pathway

Some bacteria use a signalling pathway to express channels to take up nutrients, which also recruits antibiotic molecules into bacterial cells. We identified a very interesting signalling system that triggers expression of such a nutrient channel in both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, and found a way to activate this signalling so that the influx of antibiotic through this channel can be dramatically increased, which may overcome resistance mechanism.

3. Development of glycoenzyme

Glycosylation is a key biological process, which is often associated with many diseases. The structure of glycans is often very complex, and therefore it is not easy to make them via chemical synthesis. We are interested in developing enzymes that can synthesise such complex glycans. Particularly, fluorinated glycans may have interesting and desirable biological activities, and we are developing enzymes that can work on such fluorinated glycan substrates. For this, we are collaborating with computational chemists to design enzymes, and engineer them through molecular biology and protein chemistry. 

Research Groups

Institute for Life Sciences; Global Network for Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Prevention

Research group

Chemical Biology, Diagnostics and Therapeutics

Deputy outreach coordinator, Biosafety committee review board

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Key Publications


BIOL1026/1028 Chemistry of Life

CHEM1058 Chemical Principles (module coordinator)

CHEM6162 Advanced Chemical Biology

Dr Seung Seo Lee
Chemistry University of Southampton Highfield Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number : 30/5027

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