- Modularity of biological parts and devices.
A key concept in synthetic biology is the composition of predictable systems from a set of reusable, well characterized parts. This paradigm has been successful in all the fields of engineering and, similarly, it could enable the design of customized biological systems without following trial-and-error approaches. However, modularity is required to accomplish this task, as only in a modular framework parts can be individually characterized and assembled in a complex system in a predictable way. Towards this goal, we are now investigating the predictability boundaries of biological components to disclose the modularity limits of several parts and devices when tested in different conditions (e.g. chassis, copy number, media) and assembled in increasingly complex circuits in prokaryotes.
The foundational research studies on biological parts are exploited to optimize a recombinant metabolic pathway, including a pyruvate decarboxylase and an alcohol dehydrogenase, for ethanol production from lactose fermentation in E. coli. Lactose is an abundant sugar in dairy industry waste (cheese whey and whey permeate) that can be considered as a free raw material for biofuel production. The expression of recombinant genes is optimized, in terms of product yield and phenotype stability, via orthogonal well-characterized regulatory parts and codon optimization. The engineered microbes are a starting point for the development of a cost-effective industrial valorization process of whey and also for the production of other fuels with synthetic biology.
- Quorum sensing re-engineering
Quorum sensing elements are used to engineer a genetic circuit that implements a closed-loop control system