• Nijenborgh4, Gebouw 5116, ruimte 0237

    9747 AG Groningen


Personal profile

Research interests

Evolution is an autonomous, all-purpose problem solver. In nature, employing recursive cycles of diversification, selection and amplification has resulted in a plethora of biomolecules with remarkable functions. My group aspires to employ the Darwinian algorithm in the laboratory and employ selections for the creation of made-to-order biomolecules and to obtain a molecular understanding of the underlying evolutionary processes. In our efforts, make use of innovative molecular evolution approaches to:

(1) process catalytic information in bacteria to engineer efficient biocatalysts and map their structure-function relationships

(2) interface synthetic chemistry with phage display protocols to select natural-product-like macrocyclic peptides that combine the favorable traits of small-molecule and peptide-based drugs.

In a first step toward these goals, we have established an in vivo selection strategy that can elicit biotechnologically-relevant biocatalysts with vastly improved activities through serial passaging of populations harboring enzyme libraries. Requiring minimal human intervention and no specialized equipment, our strategy lends itself readily to automation and parallelization, thus making it ideal to efficiently navigate a complex sequence space. For the generation and selection of natural-product-like macrocyclic peptides, we have developed strategies to employ modified privileged scaffolds – common building blocks for small-molecule libraries – as non-peptidic cyclization units on the surface of bacteriophages. These strategies enable us to simultaneously generate billions of natural-product-like compounds that fall into a previously inaccessible chemical space, and select high-affinity binders from these libraries by phage display.


Clemens obtained his Bachelor in Chemistry (2007) and Master in Biotechnology (2009) from Graz University of Technology. He, then, joined Donald Hilvert at ETH Zurich to pursue a PhD. After completing his doctoral studies in 2014, he moved to the University of Cambridge to work as a postdoctoral fellow with Sir Shankar Balasubramanian for two years. In 2016, Clemens moved to the University of Groningen to join Gerard Roelfes at the Stratingh Institute for Chemistry. After being awarded a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship in 2016 and an NWO VENI award in 2017, he was appointed as Assistant Professor for Biomolecular Chemistry and Catalysis at the Stratingh Institute in October 2018.

Education/Academic qualification

Biomolecular Chemistry & Catalysis, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Groningen, Stratingh Institute for Chemistry


Molecular / Cell Biology, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Cambrdige


Chemistry, PhD, Laboratory of Organic Chemistry, ETH Zürich


Biotechnology, MSc, Graz University of Technology


Chemistry, BSc, Graz University of Technology


Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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