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CSB and GeneMods, the NU Synthetic Biology Club, Host FBI WMD Chicago Coordinator to Discuss Biosecurity

CSB and GeneMods hosted FBI special agent Scott Mahloch to present on synthetic biology and on contemporary issues in national security. While at NU, Mahloch also met with the iGEM team, organizers of the GeneMods podcast, and members of a Chicago community bio lab startup to discuss how to continue conducting cutting edge synthetic biology research in a way that is safe and aligned with national security and safety priorities.

SynBio Seminar Series: "Synthetic Biology for Synthetic Chemistry" by Prof. Jay Keasling, Department of Chemical Engineering & Bioengineering, UC Berkeley, Synthetic Biology Department, Physical Biosciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Joint BioEnergy Institute.

Microbial metabolism can be harnessed to convert sugars and other carbonaceous feedstocks into a variety of chemicals (commodity and specialty), fuels, and pharmaceuticals.  We have engineered the industrial platform microorganisms Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and are developing others like Streptomyces venezuelae, to produce a variety of molecules, including active pharmaceutical ingredients, advanced biofuels, and chemicals that might otherwise be produced from petroleum.  Unlike ethanol, the advanced biofuels have the full fuel value of petroleum-based biofuels, will be transportable using existing infrastructure, and can be used in existing automobiles and airplanes.  Similarly, the microbially sourced chemicals can be dropped into existing processes used to produce existing materials.  These chemicals will be produced from natural biosynthetic pathways that exist in plants and a variety of microorganisms as well as from pathways that have no representation in the natural world.  In addition to creating the pathways for their synthesis, we have developed means to regulate the pathways inside the host organism, including biosensors to sense intermediates or final products.  Large-scale production of these chemicals and fuels will reduce our dependence on petroleum and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, while allowing us to take advantage of our current transportation infrastructure and products supply chains. 

Prof. Jay Keasling

SynBio Seminar Series: "How to Build A Genome" by Prof. Jef Boeke, Institute for Systems Genetics at NYU Langone Medical Center

March 3, 2107: 11am - 12pm, Tech LR4

Rapid advances in DNA synthesis techniques have made it possible to engineer diverse genomic elements, pathways, and whole genomes, providing new insights into design and analysis of systems. The synthetic yeast genome project, Sc2.0 is well on its way with six of the first synthetic Saccharomyces cerevisiae chromosomes completed. Undergraduate students provide a workforce for synthesis and assembly for some of these chromosomes, though a wide variety of assembly schemes are employed by the various groups building chromosomes. The synthetic genome features several systemic modifications, including TAG/TAA stop-codon swaps, deletion of subtelomeric regions, introns, tRNA genes, transposons and silent mating loci. As well, strategically placed loxPsym sites enable genome restructuring using an inducible evolution system termed SCRaMbLE (Synthetic Chromosome Rearrangement and Modification by LoxP-mediated Evolution).   SCRaMbLE can be used as a novel method of mutagenesis, capable of generating millions of variants leading to complex genotypes and a variety of phenotypes.  The fully synthetic yeast genome opens the door to a new type of combinatorial genetics based on variations in gene content and copy number, rather than base changes. We also describe supernumerary designer “neochromosomes” that add new functionalities to cells such as humanized pathways and complexes, and general approaches to engineering of karyotype.  Finally, we have automated many steps in our big DNA synthesis pipeline, opening the door to massively parallel big DNA assembly.

Jef Boeke Seminar

SynBio Seminar Series: "Biological Design for Health & the Environment" by Prof. Pamela A Silver, Department of Systems Biology, Harvard University

January 20, 2017: 11:00am - 12:00pm,  Tech LR4

The engineering of Biology presents infinite opportunities for therapeutic design, diagnosis, prevention of disease and solutions to environmental problems.  We use what we know from Nature to engineer systems with predictable behaviors.  We also seek to discover new natural strategies to then re-engineer.  This ‘Synthetic Biology’ has deep practical and social consequences for both basic and applied research.  Here, I will present concepts and experiments that address how we approach these problems in a systematic way.  

We engineer components of the gut microbiome to act as both diagnostics and therapeutics.  In doing so, we have been able to explore the inflamed gut.  We can engineer the same bacteria to secrete toxins that could result in localized killing of pathogens and to act in a communal manner.   

All cells use compartmentalization of proteins to enhance biochemical reactions.  We have discovered a wide spread strategy by which all prokaryotes sequester chemical reactions to protect from toxic intermediates.  These results have far-reaching implications for cell-based manufacturing and sustainability. 

Dr. Pamela Silver

GeneMods Inaugural Meeting

NU Synthetic Biology Club

Monday, January 11, 2016
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Cook Hall 3118
Learn more about this event

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