Faculty Member

Dr. Paola Laurino

Unit members

Dr. Madhuri Gade, Postdoctoral Scholar

Email: madhuri.gade[at]

I joined OIST as a Postdoc in November 2017 with Dr. Paola Laurino after completing my Ph.D. in Organic chemistry under the supervision of Dr. Raghavendra Kikkeri from IISER Pune. Before I worked as Project assistant in National Chemical Laboratory, Pune. I completed my masters in 2011 from Pune University in organic chemistry.  My current research interest is focus on cofactor engineering for RNA modifications. My specific aims are engineering S-adenosyl methionine to study epigenetics modifications and engineering of enzymes to accept unnatural cofactor. A bioorthogonal system to study RNA modification in vivo. 


Dr. Bhanu Chouhan, Postdoctoral Scholar

Email: bhanu.chouhan[at]

Bhanu (born in Indore, India, 1985) received his Masters degree in Bioinformatics from the University of Turku, Finland in 2009. In 2016, he obtained his PhD degree from the Structural Bioinformatics Laboratory (SBL), Department of Biochemistry, Åbo Akademi University, Finland, under the supervision of Professor Mark S. Johnson and Docent Konstantin Denssiouk. 

His doctoral research has focused on deciphering the evolutionary history of heterodimeric cell-surface receptors known as Integrins  that mediate cell-cell, cell-extracellular matrix and cell-pathogen interactions. Herein, he sought to identify when the constitutive integrin domains first arose and when the mammalian-type functionalities first appeared.

Since March 2018, Bhanu is a Postdoctoral researcher at the Protein Engineering and Evolution Unit under the supervision of Dr. Paola Laurino. His research work at OIST focuses on the ancestral resurrection of ancient enzymes coupled with the wet lab based directed evolution in order to gain novel insights into their (enzyme's) evolutionary trajectories and resurrect mutants with desired properties.   

Dr. Mirco Dindo, JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow

Email: mirco.dindo[at]

I was born in Verona (Italy) and I obtained my PhD in Biomolecular Medicine (Curriculum in Biochemistry) at the University of Verona.

I really like proteins from several point of view, catalysis (in particular), conformational changes, different kind of interactions, regulation.. these molecules are amazing! Okinawa is a wonderful place for science and for nature lovers. Currently I am working in the engineering of proteins for the production of non canonical amino acids or for their use as biosensors or marker for early cancer detection. I'm also trying to develop a recipe for scientists, let's see if it works!

Dr. Saacnicteh Toledo Patino, Postdoctoral Scholar

Email: Saacnicteh.ToledoPatino[at]

I was born on May 28th, 1984 in Morelia, Mexico where I studied Chemical Pharmacobiology at UMSNH University (2002-2006). I studied Biochemistry at Eberhard-Karls University of Tuebingen (2008-2013), where I obtained my Masters degree in Protein Design (2013). I obtained my PhD in Biochemistry at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in the same city (2014-2019). During my doctoral studies I joined the University of Bayreuth as a scientific employee (2016-2019). Since December 2019 I work in Prof. Laurino's unit for Protein Design and Evolution where I carry out projects on the emergence of the Rossmann fold and its ligand diversification.

Dr. Benjamin Clifton, JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow


I was born in Sydney, Australia and completed an undergraduate degree in chemistry (PhB (Sci) Hons) and PhD degree in protein biochemistry (2013-2016) at the Australian National University in Canberra. Protein evolution has been a longstanding interest for me, in particular, understanding how complex and functionally diverse proteins evolve through a simple process of mutation and selection, and how we can use this knowledge practically for protein engineering purposes.

During my PhD research in Prof. Colin Jackson's group, I studied the evolution of new protein functions in the solute-binding protein superfamily using ancestral protein reconstruction, a technique that allows extinct proteins to be recreated so that their evolutionary history can be studied in the lab. I then worked in a research role at Affinity Bio (Melbourne, Australia, 2017-2019), where I contributed to the development of antibodies against challenging targets for use in cancer immunotherapy. I joined the Protein Engineering and Evolution Unit at OIST in January 2020 to study how cellular tRNA modifications affect the outcome of protein evolution by controlling the error rate of protein synthesis. I'm also interested in developing new methods for functional annotation of solute-binding proteins for use in biosensor applications.


Dr. Gen-ichiro Uechi, Technician

Email: Gen-ichiro.Uechi[at]

I'm Uechi. I joined in Apr. 2019. I was born in Okinawa and got a Ph.D. at the University of the Ryukyus.  I want to spread the beauty of Okinawa and want to be a bridge with younger generation.

Mr. Stefano Pascarelli, PhD Student

Email: stefano.pascarelli1[at]

I have always been fascinated by is evolution, and how it is able to explain how complex life developed from a simple mixture of atoms. It takes place in so many scales, from proteins to populations. Exploring evolution means understanding the forces involved in developing complexity, and who knows, maybe even being able to reproduce them. I want evolution to be a prominent topic during my time at OIST. Specifically, protein evolution and the different levels of complexity a protein can achieve in evolve.

OIST is a place that really represents my ideologies in science. It is a peaceful place where collaborate with each other towards a common goal is possible. It is the best environment for scientists to make a difference in their field.

We must never forget that science is a community. On one side, it allows the knowledge to be accessible and shared, like a magic wallet that makes everyone that possess it equally richer by anyone’s contribution. On the other side, a community of humans is not new to mistakes, but in this case, the history of the past can help us correct them.

I believe in a borderless scientific community, if not the whole Earth’s community, without discriminations. The instinct of segregating in small, aggressive groups served us well during evolution. Now, it is a dangerous remain of the past, that might annihilate Humanity. I am considerate towards tolerating the differences, learning from another culture, respecting other ideals up to the limit of rationality. The only way to do so is to dive deep in the melting pot. To be an experience to the others as much as they are to you. Static environments more hardly lead to progress

Mr. Alessandro Bevilacqua, Rotation Student

Email: alessandro.bevilacqua[at]

I was born in Milan (Italy) where I obtained a master's degree in Plant Biotechnology at University of Milan. During my master's thesis I worked on protein expression and purification; since that experience, I have been interested in proteins' world.
I started my PhD here at OIST in January 2020 and I am really enjoying my stay here in Okinawa, both for the amazing places around and for how OIST do science: by promoting inclusion, equity, know-how sharing between different fields. 
I feel I am in a community that is working together to promote a better future and, in my opinion, this is what science should be about. In fewer word: sow science to harvest future!


Mr. Yoshiki Ochiai, PhD Student

Email: yoshiki.ochiai[at]

I was born and grew up in Osaka, Japan. I studied in molecular biology, biochemistry, and biophysics at Soka University, Tokyo. I got my master degree in Saitama university, and, at the same time, I worked in RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Center (CSRS) and The University of Tokyo.

I joined in Protein Engineering and Evolution Unit from May 2020. Here I have engaged in designing novel enzymes for solving biological problems.

Mr. Dan Kozome, PhD Student

Email: dan.kozome2[at]

I was born and raised in Tokyo and moved to Okinawa in 2013. I obtained a bachelor's and master's degree in Agriculture at the University of the Ryukyus, where I was engaged in thermostabilizing an enzyme and in creating chimera enzymes by protein engineering (2013-2019).

After internship and Gap program research at this Unit, I finally joined the Protein Engineering and Evolution Unit as a PhD student to start research focusing on how proteins acquire the function.  

I am so happy to come back here to work with wonderful members and in a fascinating environment.  


Ms. Samira Gmuer, Rotation Student

Email: samira.gmuer[at]

Hi, I’m Samira (Sam for short). I was born and raised in Switzerland, which is – at least geographically speaking – probably the complete opposite of Okinawa. My fascination for science started with astronomy and my first toy microscope and cumulated in my apprenticeship as a laboratory technician (major in analytical chemistry) from 2008-2011, when I was still a teenager. I soon decided to continue my education with a BSc in Molecular Life Sciences, majoring in organic chemistry and analytical chemistry, at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), Basel (2013-2017). For my Bachelor Thesis, I got the chance to visit Harvard University and work with a top-notch team with interests in vastly different scientific topics while in Prof. George M. Whitesides’ laboratory. Still, collaboration was the key and worked across scientific fields. I investigated molecular evolution and the influence of molecular heterogeneity on the robustness of a reaction network made up from oscillating organic reactions. When I returned, I found myself more and more fascinated by the protein world and worked on several projects concerning protein-protein interaction measurements using SPR, BLI, ITC, and other techniques at FHNW. From 2019 to 2021, I was a MSc Drug Sciences student at the University of Basel, where I mainly focused on broadening my scientific scope and learn more about biotherapeutics. My Master Thesis therefore concerned a biomarker, the pro-inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha, and the therapeutic antibodies targeting this protein. I investigated how oligomerisation of tumor necrosis factor alpha (monomeric or trimeric state) influences its interactions of the antibody, using a novel in-solution protein-protein interaction tool called Flow Induced Dispersion Analysis (FIDA). 

I feel that a PhD at OIST can perfectly accommodate my scientific interests and shape my future career as a scientist. I’ve experienced how collaboration, not only in one’s own field, can create enormous synergies and I’m looking forward to observing this fascinating effect again. 

And yes, I’m all science and cycling (the text explains the science, the picture emphasizes the cycling).


Ms. Mika Uehara, Unit Research Administrator

Email: mika.uehara[at]