Dr. Thyer (BSc (Hons), The University of Western Australia) completed his PhD with Dr. Oliver Rackham and Dr. Aleksandra Filipovska at the Western Australian Institute of Medical Research (renamed the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research) in 2013. His doctoral research focused on the use of orthogonal ribosomes as tools for synthetic biology, and demonstrated the ability of the 16S rRNA to preferentially direct the incorporation of non-canonical amino acids. In 2013 he joined the research group of Professor Andrew D. Ellington in the Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology at the University of Texas at Austin as a postdoctoral fellow. In the Ellington lab, Dr. Thyer developed a new biosynthetic and incorporation pathway for selenocysteine in bacteria which enabled the production of protein therapeutics containing diselenide bonds. These discoveries lead to the formation of GRO Biosciences (www.grobio.com), a start-up biotechnology company located in Boston, MA, of which Dr. Thyer is a cofounder and scientific advisor. As a postdoctoral researcher, he also engineered new biosynthesis and translational machinery for the non-canonical amino acid 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA), and helped develop a deep learning model to guide protein engineering (www.mutcompute.com). In July 2020, Dr. Thyer joined Rice University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
The Thyer research group works at the interface of synthetic biology, protein and strain engineering and molecular programming to expand nature’s capabilities and tackle some of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. Dr. Thyer has three main areas of research interest: using expanded genetic codes to develop new therapeutics, applying genetic circuitry and high-throughput selections to engineer biosynthesis pathways and industrial biocatalysts, and developing novel microbial systems for bioremediation and biorecovery of persistent environmental pollutants. These projects are built around a core set of technologies including structure-based deep learning, modular DNA assembly, recombineering and genome editing, directed evolution and protein design, and high-throughput emulsion-PCR selections. In addition to his main research areas, technology development is also a key aspect of his research program. Current areas of technology development include new bioinformatics tools for enzyme engineering, new high-throughput selection techniques and domesticating non-model bacteria for use as hosts for bioproduction.