Silver: Synthetic Biology
Synthetic biology focuses on design and construction of synthetic genomes and programmed cells through cycles of computer modeling, assembly, and testing (not necessarily in that order). The goal of synthetic biology (at least in our lab) is to both enhance our understanding of biological systems and to develop tools for constructing organisms with defined functions and outputs. In the long term, we hope to develop a set of parts and principles for building eukaryotic cells that might act as novel sensors, memory cells, biocomputers or energy producers. We also hope to use standardized parts to build novel proteins that could have therapeutic value. In doing so, we hope to understand how far we can take the concept of modularity in biology. Modularity exists not only at the level of genes, but also in RNA, proteins, cellular compartments and metabolic pathways - all providing novel parts for designing cells.
Current projects focus on using the added complexity of eukaryotes (both yeast and mammalian cells) in our designs and include the construction of standardized parts for designer proteins with well-defined functions that can also be used to screen for novel cell functions, a cellular oscillator based on nuclear/cytoplasmic localization, a lifespan counter for analyzing cellular aging, and a cell-based memory device. (Ira Phillips, Caroline Ajo-Franklin, Dirk Landgraf, Caleb Kennedy, Bruno Afonso, Dave Drubin, Jake Wintermute, Bill Senapedis, Rachel Haurwitz, Ian Swinburne).