The BioHazards project was established to teach students and enthusiasts the fundamentals of protein evolution. To make the material accessible and exciting, lessons are conveyed through an intuitive and attractive gaming environment and framed into the context of common human health concerns and topics. The project is maintained and developed by the Karchin lab at The Johns Hopkins University Department of Biomedical Engineering and Institute for Computational Medicine.

Protein Evolution

Proteins are a primary component of almost all functional aspects of all living things. These amazing biological molecules give us metabolism, muscle movement, perceptions, fabricate materials, and even store memories. A protein’s specific structure and function is dictated by the smaller molecules from which it is made, called amino acids. The instructions for manufacturing proteins is contained in a genetic blueprint called a genome, and are unique in every species. Because genomic transmission from an organism to its progeny is imperfect, over time, a species’ genetic blueprint can change; that means the amino-acid composition of that organism’s proteins can change. If those changes also alter the structure and function of the organism’s proteins, they can also alter the organism’s fitness. Deleterious changes can cause a species or individual to be eliminated from the population (extinction or disease, respectively), while some changes can confer a selective advantage. These ideas underlie the concept of protein evolution, a fundamental mechanism of the evolution of species.


Rachel Karchin (karchin at jhu dot edu): Principal investigator
David Masica (david dot masica at gmail dot com): Producer and content adviser
Jean Fan: Software engineer
Jodi Chapman: 3D modeling, animation, and voice
Lewis Karchin: Web design
Dewey Kim: Content adviser
Dexter Davison: Music
Sound samples used with permission of FreeSound.org
In association with: The Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Department of Biomedical Engineering, Institute for Computational Medicine, and Department of Arts as Applied to Medicine (AAM)
Special thanks to: Joan Freedman (JHU Digital Media Center), Christine Newman (JHU Center for Educational Outreach), and Jennifer Fairman (JHU AAM)

Karchin Lab

Research in Rachel Karchin’s lab is focused on determining the impact of genetic variation on human health. The Karchin lab is located at The Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Baltimore, Maryland, and is affiliated with the JHU Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Institute for Computational Medicine.