Juan L. Mendoza has expertise in cancer research, bioinformatics, protein engineering, structural biology, and immunology.
Mendoza was named a 2023 Freeman Hrabowski Scholar by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a new program supporting outstanding early career faculty who are committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in science.
He received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from San Francisco State University and a doctorate in molecular biophysics with an emphasis in computational and systems biology from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
As a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University, his honors include an NIH NCI Career Development Award, and prestigious fellowships from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation and the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.
Prof. Mendoza joined the University of Chicago as assistant professor at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering and in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2018.
Mendoza Group’s research focuses on understanding basic principles of protein function relevant to human health and disease. Protein families of interest include the interferon (IFN) superfamily of cytokines which are an essential part of the innate immune system, providing protection against the spread of viral infections and cancerous growths. There are three families of IFNs, type I-III, each with distinct ligand-receptor systems. By applying a protein engineering approach, we are able to rapidly evolve IFNs and visualize the three-dimensional shapes of interferon cytokines bound to their cellular receptors. When the sequence and structural information of the newly evolved interferon cytokines is combined with comprehensive biophysical and functional studies, we provide new insights into cytokine signaling and create new opportunities for developing promising molecules for basic research and clinical use. Further work in the lab focuses on developing computational tools to accelerate protein engineering efforts and extend our understanding of the protein sequence-structure-function paradigm to other protein superfamilies.