Chair, Department of Chemistry; Professor, Biological Chemistry; Professor, Materials Science and Engineering


The Allen Group investigates the structure, function, mechanisms of catalysis and evolution of enzymes. Their insights into these essential proteins guide the design of specialized molecules and enzymes to aid in drug discovery and in the development of tools that assist in protein studies. The Allen Group researchers conduct their studies using X-ray crystallography, kinetics, enzymology, and bioinformatics and collaborate with leading laboratories at other universities.

  • Structure/Function/Catalytic Studies elucidate the determinants of substrate and membrane interaction of specific enzymes in the phosphoglycosyl transferase (PGT) and glycosyl transferase families (GT). These membrane-embedded proteins feature prominently in the multistep biosynthetic pathways that lead to complex glycoconjugates. Such glycoconjugates provide mechanical stability to microorganisms in challenging environments and mediate interactions amongst bacteria and between bacterial pathogens and symbionts and the human hosts that they inhabit. (With the Imperiali Group, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  • Drug Discovery Studies aim to develop small-molecule inhibitors against the potent neurotoxin produced by the soil-dwelling bacterium Clostridium botulinum (BoNT). These inhibitors are crucial because these toxins have high potential for use in biological weapons. The toxin is also heavily used clinically, necessitating an agent against overdose (With the Janda Group, The Scripps Research Institute)
  • Protein-Protein Interactions are a natural extension of our approaches to to reveal the physicochemical properties of the active site. Ultimately, these tactics seek to enhance structure-based ligand discovery by assessing the intrinsic binding potential of the protein surface. (With the Whitty and Gilmore Groups, BU)

Allen Group Website


Techniques & Resources

  • X-Ray Crystallography – BU has a state-of-the-art X-ray crystallographic suite, capable of collecting data on both macromolecules and small molecules. A dedicated X-Ray technician assists with data collection, processing, and troubleshooting.
  • The Mosquito and Dragonfly – utilizes robotics to optimized formulation and set up of crystallization conditions. The reproducibility of assays in micro-well trays is also enhanced using this technology.
  • Bioinformatics – The Allen lab utilizes the Scientific Computing and Visualization (SCV) supercomputers to create protein structure models guided by sequence information. The center enables the visualization of multiple sequences through sequence similarities networks.
  • Opportunities – Members of the Allen Group regularly visit national research centers to take advantage of unique facilities and expertise in x-ray crystallography and small angle X-ray scattering. Facilities at Brookhaven and Argonne National Laboratories and Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource allow students and post-doctoral fellows to collect high-quality data on crystalline and solution samples. By attending workshops and classes at these facilities, the lab exchanges ideas with users from all over the world.

What’s Next for Graduates of the Allen Group?

Enzymology and rational drug design skills are in great demand at academic institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and research institutes. Recent members include:

  • Christine Harvey- Scientist 1, Civetta Therapeutics
  • Chetanya Pandya- Senior Data Scientist, Bluebird Bio, Cambridge MA
  • Lanlan Han- Assistant Prof., Minnesota State University, Mankato