My name is Oliver Ernst. I'm the CERC in Structural Neurobiology at the University of Toronto.
The goal of my research, the cells of our body contain receptors and they serve us to send extra cellular signals like hormones and neurotransmitters. These receptors, also called G-protein-couple receptors (GPCRs), are also important for vision, olfaction and taste.
I'm interested to understand how these GPCRs bind their ligands, how they undergo conformational change and how they stimulate signaling proteins inside of the cell. For this we apply methods from bio‑chemistry biophysics and stuctural biology.
I think the most important achievement is the determination of the structure of opsin. Opsin can combine with the retinal to form rhodopsin, the photo‑receptor in our eyes. We could solve the structure of this protein in its active conformation. And I’m very proud about this achievement of my team.
The University of Toronto has a very strong structural biology and a large community of neuroscientists. It provides a very attractive and stimulating atmosphere for me. I can interact with various scientists on different GPCRs and we can try to understand together how these GPCRs work and how this knowledge can be used to fight different diseases and to understand and fight different diseases.
I should mention in this regard that G-protein couple receptors are very important drug target for the pharmaceutical industry. About 50% of current drugs are acting against GPCRs.
Thank you very much.