Speaker: Prof. Ralf Jauch

Time: 2:00-3:00 PM, 12 Jun., 2024

Venue: Room 111, Lynn Library

The directed and natural evolution of the molecular toolkit of stem cells

Topic: The directed and natural evolution of the molecular toolkit of stem cells

Speaker: Prof. Ralf Jauch

Time: 2:00-3:00 PM, 12 Jun., 2024

Venue: Room 111, Lynn Library


Our team uses re-designed versions of SOX, OCT, and KLF transcription factors to reprogram somatic cells into various types of stem cells. The selective partnership between these pioneer transcription factors is critical for their role in the induction and maintenance of stem cells. Mutating key amino acids can drastically boost their functions. For example, re-engineered SOX17 turns into an enhanced 'ultra-SOX', termed eSOX17, which speeds up pluripotency induction. In human cells, eSOX17 enables the direct conversion of somatic cells into cells with totipotency features. Two-factor eSOX17/c-MYC cocktails can transdifferentiate human blood into induced brain stem cells, avoiding the rejuvenation associated with pluripotency induction. Inspired by the close partnership between SOX/OCT and the potential of re-engineered variants to program stem cell states, we have begun to study their evolutionary history. Until now, SOX and OCT factors have been believed to be unique to animals. Surprisingly, we discovered that key parts of the molecular toolkit essential for mammalian pluripotency emerged long before the evolution of animal multicellularity and the existence of stem cells as we know them today.


Dr. Ralf Jauch relocated to Hong Kong in 2018 as an Associate Professor at the School of Biomedical Sciences of HKUMed, where he leads a multidisciplinary research program at the interface of protein engineering and stem cell biology. He is known for his contributions to improving the quality, utility, and efficiency of stem cell generation through the re-engineering of pioneer transcription factors. Dr. Jauch published 81 articles that are cited 4200 times (H-index: 40). He completed his undergraduate studies at the Universities of Jena, Germany, and Manchester, UK, and obtained his Ph.D. at the International Max Planck Research School in Göttingen. In 2006, he moved to Asia to join the Genome Institute of Singapore where he developed a passion for stem cells and protein design. In 2013, he joined the Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health as Principal Investigator where he established the GIBH- Max Planck Center for Regenerative Medicine and served as its deputy director. Throughout his career, Dr. Jauch filed seven patents including a recent non-provisional patent with the Centre for Translational Stem Cell Biology(Health@InnoHK).  

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