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Marko Dolinar

I am at the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia) Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology Biochemistry Chair. Before joining the Faculty (in 2001), I was research associate at the Jozef Stefan Institute where my research was focused on cysteine proteinases (mainly cathepsins L, H). As part-timer at the JSI from 2001-2006, I continued my work on cathepsins but spent much of my time organizing research conferences on proteinases and their inhibitors.

My next project was on development of recombinant humanized antibodies against the pathogenic form of the prion protein (this was a collaboration with the Blood Transfusion Centre of Slovenia). Together with my PhD student Nives Škrlj we published a range of papers on this topic between 2009 and 2013. In summary, we developed a dedicated expression vector, cloned and expressed the single-chain antibody based on the (murine) monoclonal antibody and then went into a large humanization experiment. Lastly, we introduced a blood-brain barrier crossing peptide as a linker into the scFv and proved that it can guide the scFv into the brain tissue.

In 2006 and 2007 I was co-supervisor of the Slovenian iGEM teams. We won the Grand Prize in 2006 [1] and were finalists and winners in the Medicine and Health track in 2007 [2]. My work on Synthetic biology continued with construction and testing of a versatile expression vector based on the pSB series and development of a simple and efficient promoter strength testing vector.

From 2012 we cooperate in the EU-project on synthetic biology of cyanobacteria [3]. The aim of out group is to develop a device that would prevent recombinant cyanobacteria from expanding outside of the controlled environment of a photobioreactor. Helena Čelešnik is the driving force behind this biosafety project where we had to learn a lot about endotoxins, their regulation and stability. In addition, we work towards improved reporter systems for cyanobacteria that would be useful in testing promoter strengths.

Cyanobacteria are in the focus of two other minor projects. Marina Klemenčič works on some interesting proteolytic enzmyes found in only a small range of cyanobacteria. We wish to understand their unusual structure and activity, which brings me back, to some extent, to the 1990ies and the cathepsins, although these enzymes are different in many respects. The other minor project is on molecular taxonomy of unicellular cyanobacteria where we just made our first steps.

In 2015 we plan to supervise one half of the first-ever Slovenian high school iGEM team. Our colleagues from the National Institute of Chemistry will provide the other half of the supervising team. They will also take over most of the formalities connected to participation of the team at the iGEM competition. By joining competencies in the fields of biotechnology and synthetic biology, we hope to provide a stimulating environment for the students to develop their ideas and complete their experiments towards the final goal.