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School of Engineering

Van Deventer named Bright Futures Assistant Professor

Monday, October 5, 2020
Established in 2019, the professorship supports the career development of outstanding junior faculty members at Tufts.
James Van Deventer
Bright Futures Assistant Professor James Van Deventer

James Van Deventer’s outstanding achievements as a faculty member in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering have been recognized with an appointment as the Bright Futures Assistant Professor.

This endowed professorship, established in 2019, was gifted by an anonymous donor whose hope was to recognize exceptionally promising junior faculty like Van Deventer.

“Supporting our faculty with endowed professorships is enormously valuable to Tufts,” said School of Engineering Dean and Karol Family Professor Jianmin Qu. “Generous gifts such as the Bright Futures Professorship allows us to recruit, retain, and recognize talented faculty members, who provide an exceptional level of instruction for our students.”

“I am grateful for the support that this professorship will provide,” said Van Deventer, who also noted how impactful this professorship will be in supporting him, his lab, and his research efforts.

Van Deventer joined Tufts School of Engineering as an assistant professor in 2015. His research focuses on using protein engineering, synthetic biology, and chemical biology to establish new strategies for treating cancer and other complex diseases. His lab’s efforts are centered on disrupting enzymatic and signaling processes within the tumor microenvironment.  

In 2019, he received a National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) R35 Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a comprehensive discovery platform that could lead to new classes of enzyme inhibitors. With this award, he and researchers in his lab have worked to devise strategies for discovering enzyme inhibitors that inhibit metalloproteinases – enzymes that play roles ranging from remodeling tissues during human development to catalyzing chemical reactions in disease-causing bacteria.

Other federally supported research of the Van Deventer Lab includes additional enzyme inhibitor discovery efforts and investigation of intracellular protein delivery strategies (in collaboration with the laboratory of Associate Professor Qiaobing Xu, Department of Biomedical Engineering).

“We have recently made progress on several fronts in establishing yeast-based strategies for pushing the limits of protein-based therapeutic discovery,” said Van Deventer. “One major area of progress is in moving assays and screening strategies onto the yeast surface, which improves discovery throughput. Another key advance is in expanding the range of chemistries we can introduce into proteins produced in yeast, which is broadening ongoing discovery efforts.”

Van Deventer received his PhD from California Institute of Technology in 2011. Following his doctoral studies, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS), American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), Society for Biological Engineering (SBE), Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), and The Protein Society.

Learn more about Bright Futures Assistant Professor James Van Deventer’s research at