Trainee at GlycoNet: Peter Rahfeld

Posted: March 20, 2020

Where do you work, what is your position and who is your advisor?

I am a Postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Prof. Stephen G. Withers at the University of British Columbia.

Tell me about the project you’re working on.

My research is based on high throughput screening of different metagenomic libraries, to identify carbohydrate active enzymes (CAZymes) with applications in improving human health. I am focusing specifically on the hydrolysis of human carbohydrate blood antigens structures, with the goal of finding enzymes able to convert any blood type into universal donor blood.

Other than glycomics, what areas of research do you think is important in advancing healthcare?

I think that the only way to meaningful advance healthcare developments is the focus on basic research,  since without understanding the biological and chemical principles behind certain processes, nobody will be able to manipulate them for the benefit of human health.

Tell me an “Eureka!” moment in the lab.

In December 2016, I discovered that one of my hits from a large-scale screening had a very high A antigen cleavage activity, but was not coding for any CAZymes with known blood antigen cleavage activities.

Name one new person you connected with in the last Symposium you attended. 

Dawid H. Kwan, he is a former PostDoc from Stephen and did work on the blood project, too. He has his own Research group at the Concordia in Montreal, and does fascinating research on fucosyltransferase inhibitors.

 What do you do when you are not in the lab?

I enjoy the outdoors, going hiking, skiing and running in the Vancouver Northshore mountains. I also have two cats, which need a lot of attention.

How do you fight procrastination and stress?

Normally I take a short stroll, get a coffee and stretch, or go swimming for a few rounds in the aquatic center, to get my head free.

If you had to choose a completely different career path, what would it be?

Cat Breeder !

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I have hopefully started successfully my own company and use CAZymes to modify the surface of RBCs and other tissues to avert transfusion and transplantation complications. But I will also be happy running my own lab to discover new CAZymes to improve human healthcare.

About Peter

Dr. Peter Rahfeld is a Scientist with expertise in the fields of high throughput screening and protein biochemistry, working in the Laboratory of Prof. Stephen G. Withers in the Chemistry Department of the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on the discovery of novel carbohydrate active enzymes though functional metagenomic library screenings.

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