• Directed evolution

    Exploring the protein fitness landscape and elucidating principles of biological design

  • Synthetic biology

    Engineering biological systems

  • Microbial factories

    Engineering micro-organisms to produce desirable fuels and chemicals

  • Biocatalysis

    Expanding the toolbox of biochemical reactions

  • Protein engineering

    Using evolutionary protein design methods


Research in the Arnold group focuses on evolutionary protein design methods (1,2) and using the results of laboratory evolution experiments to elucidate principles of biological design.

We generate novel and useful enzymes and organisms for applications in medicine, neurobiology, chemical synthesis and alternative energy. We also construct entire synthetic families of enzymes and other proteins in order to study structure-function relationships free from constraints of natural selection.

This research requires contributions from many disciplines, including chemistry, bioengineering, biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, chemical engineering, chemistry and applied physics.

Recent Highlights

10 Start-ups to watch: Provivi—making pest control sustainable with synthetic biology. C&EN cover stories, November 2, 2015.

McIntosh et al., Journal of the American Chemical Society, published online August 24, 2015 doi:10.1021/jacs.5b07107

Congratulations to Austin Rice (postdoc) on winning a 2015 NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA postdoctoral fellowship

Aziridination enzyme:
Farwell et al., ACS Central Science, published online April 22, 2015. doi: 10.1021/acscentsci.5b00056

Congratulations to Andrew Buller (postdoc) on winning a 2015 NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA postdoctoral fellowship

Renata et al., Angewandte Chemie Int. Ed. 54, 3351-3367 (2015). doi: 10.1002/anie.201409470

Frances Arnold elected to National Academy of Inventors

Frances Arnold now chairs the Packard Fellows Advisory Panel

Our recent report of regioselective C-H amination is highlighted in C&E News!

Jackson Cahn (grad) selected to attend the 2015 Global Young Scientists Summit at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Congratulations to Claire Bedbrook (grad) on winning a 2014 NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA predoctoral fellowship

Congratulations to Katie Brenner (PhD 2009) on winning the 2014 L'Oreal USA For Women in Science Fellowship

Jane Wang (postdoc 2014) joins Google-X to develop nanoparticle platform to detect disease

Scott McIsaac (postdoc 2014) joins Google-backed life extension company, Calico

Fluorescent voltage sensor for neuronal activity

Our new P450 carbenoid/nitrenoid transfer biocatalysts to be distributed by Strem

BBC Future:
Why Reprogramming Tiny Life Could Reap Rich Rewards

Wang et al., Angewandte Chemie Communications 126, 6928-6931 (2014)

2014 National Inventors Hall of Fame

Nikki Peck (grad) and Jane Wang (postdoc) win the 2013 Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Grand Prize

P450-Catalyzed Cyclopropanation and C-H Amination

2011 National Medal of Technology & Innovation

Sex, Evolution, and Innovation: Frances H. Arnold TEDxUSC May, 2012

Rosen Bioengineering Center