Harry Brumer



Professional Profiles

  • Apr. 2015 – present: Associate Member, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of British Columbia
  • Jul. 2014 – present: Associate Member, Department of Botany, University of British Columbia
  • Sep. 2011 – present: Professor, Michael Smith Laboratories and Department of Chemistry, University of British Columbia
  • 2011 – 2012: Professor, School of Biotechnology, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden
  • 2004 – 2011: Associate Professor (Docent), School of Biotechnology, KTH
  • 1999 – 2004: Assistant Professor (Forskarassistent), School of Biotechnology, KTH
  • 1998 – 1999: Post-doctoral researcher, Department of Chemistry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada (S.G. Withers)
  • 1996 – 1998: Ph.D., University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), Manchester, UK (M.L. Sinnott)
  • 1993 – 1995: M.Sc., University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), IL, U.S.A. (R.M. Moriarty)
  • 1989 – 1993: B.Sc. Biochemistry, Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI, U.S.A. (cum laude)

Research Area

Fundamental and applied carbohydrate enzymology
The focus of our Carbohydrate Enzymology Research Group is to understand the way in which particular enzymes act to alter the structure of polysaccharides found in biomass (especially plant cell walls and wood fibers), and to harness these enzymes for applications. We are primarily interested in the carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes) which synthesize, re-arrange, and degrade glycosidic bonds. Studies of carbohydrate oxidases involved in polysaccharide functionalisation comprise another primary research area.

In the biological context, we aim to elucidate the molecular details of polysaccharide synthesis and deconstruction in:

  • biogenesis of plant cell walls
  • recycling of biomass in the global carbon cycle
  • breakdown of dietary fibre (non-starch polysaccharides) by the human gut microbiota
    [An excellent popular science overview of our research in this area, including an animated video and an audio interview with Prof. Brumer, has been produced by UBC SCIE300 students – click here to check it out.]

The discovery and characterisation of new enzymes involved in these processes provides a foundation for the development of enzyme technology for the improved use of renewable biomass resources in the forest products, agricultural, and textile industries.

Research Questions

  1. How does the metabolism of complex carbohydrates fuel microbial ecosystems?
  2. How can understanding dietary carbohydrate metabolism be harnessed to improve human and animal health?
  3. How can studying the natural biodiversity of enzymes impact biomass production and transformation?
  4. How can chemo-enzymatic modification of polysaccharides and small molecules advance the developing bioeconomy?

Research Keywords

Biochemistry, biotechnology, bioinformatics, biological imaging, biophysics, enzymology, microbiome, bioproducts, macromolecular biochemistry,plant biology, protein chemistry, catalysis, forestry, organic/synthetic chemistry

To learn more about the Brumer Lab, please visit brumerlab.msl.ubc.ca.