Before joining lab of Weston Struwe at the start of 2022 Sean was previously a postdoctoral research associate within the lab of Professor Manuel Mayr at King’s College London, having also conducted his PhD in the same laboratory where his research centred on cardiovascular disease, which was funded by the highly competitive British Heart Foundation mRes PhD programme. Specifically, he developed and applied multiple –omics mass spectrometry technologies in the context of high-density lipoprotein composition, interrogating how this composition related to function and the risk of coronary artery disease.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic Sean redirected his research and leveraged his skillsets in mass spectrometry to study SARS-CoV-2 biomolecular interactions. These research projects galvanised Sean’s interest in the development of structural mass spectrometry techniques and their unique potential to uncover mechanisms of glycoprotein interactions.
Realisation in Sean’s own work investigating spike viral glycoproteins made clear the important, and relatively understudied role glycosylation plays in the ability of viral proteins to interact with host receptors, but also evade immune detection. Furthermore, the glycosylation state of a viral protein greatly influences antibody recognition and is therefore of paramount importance for vaccine design, including new DNA/RNA based vaccines. Due to the largely heterogeneous nature of glycosylation, interactions involving glycans are exceedingly difficult to study. Sean’s goal is to solve this problem and transform our ability to unpick these complex glycan-dependent relationships.
Cross-Linking Mass Spectrometry Uncovers Interactions Between High-Density Lipoproteins and the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Glycoprotein. Sean A. Burnap, Ana Maria Ortega-Prieto, Jose M. Jimenez-Guardeño, Hashim Ali, Kaloyan Takov, Matthew Fish, Manu Shankar-Hari, Mauro Giacca, Michael H. Malim, Manuel Mayr. Molecular and Cellular Proteomics, 2023. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mcpro.2023.100600
Mass photometry reveals SARS-CoV-2 spike stabilisation to impede ACE2 binding through altered conformational dynamics. Sean A. Burnap and Weston B. Struwe. Chemical Communications, 2022. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1039/D2CC04711J