Research Focus


Synthetic Biology

Synthetic Biology involves the design and construction of new biological units such as proteins/enzymes, gene circuits, and cellular systems or the re-design of existing biological systems. In essence, synthetic biology seeks to make biology easier to engineer. Synthetic biology involves designing, constructing and assembling core biological components such as gene circuits and metabolic pathways in a way that allows them to be modeled, understood, and tuned to meet specific performance criteria. This would then allow them to be assembled into larger integrated biological systems that can have a programmable function to solve specific problems. It is envisioned that synthetic biologists will soon design and build engineered biological systems and transform biology in the same way that synthesis transformed chemistry and integrated circuit design transformed computing. The applications of synthetic biology are vast - since its conception, synthetic biology has since been applied via engineering of microbes to address a number of challenging problems including the production of drugs and biofuels as well as biosensing, with the overall aim to address healthcare, energy sustainability challenges. Our School is actively engaged in Synthetic Biology research primarily in (i) foundational research and (ii) applications areas in energy and healthcare. In foundational research, we are developing modeling techniques and computer aided design tools for improved synthetic biology design. In the applications, we are engineering cellular systems (e.g. microbes) to spit out fuels as well as kill pathogens. Our undergraduates have participated in the annual International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) organized by MIT, bagging silver and gold medals in 2008 and 2009, respectively, in the health track of the competition.




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