Silver: Synthetic Biology
Biology offers an enormous number of opportunities for novel functions. Cells are capable of remarkable things including exquisite sensing of molecules, rapid signaling, implementation of modularity, and rapid duplication. 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 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 principles for building eukaryotic cells that might act as novel sensors, memory cells, biocomputers or energy producers and to build proteins with novel functions. Recently, we have unraveled ways in which photosynthetic organisms fix and process carbon dioxide.
Current projects include
- using the added complexity of eukarytoic cells (both yeast and mammalian) to build cells that can count and remember past events.
- designing proteins and cell arrays for novel cell functions and possible therapeutic value.
- engineering cells that harness their environment in novel ways.
We have recently been award a large ARPA-E grant to apply synthetic biology to production of bio-fuels