Starting up in September 2020, we're proud to introduce our Centre for Synthetic Biology Seminar Series. We'll be hosting top speakers from across the globe, presenting on all topics from fundamental theory to cutting edge experiments. At least initially, seminars will be hosted remotely and everyone is welcome, whether you are a member of College or not. If you're interested, please sign up to our network mailing list for regular updates on speakers; our full schedule is shown below, and you can find details about how to watch live by clicking on the event links.  Recordings of previous talks can be found in the video playlist below.

Recorded Seminars

Prof Geoff Baldwin and Prof Mark Isalan

Accelerating the engineering of biological systems - Geoff Baldwin (Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London)

A genetic toolkit and gene switches to limit Mycoplasma growth for a synthetic vaccine chassis - Mark Isalan (Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London)

 Mycoplasmas have exceptionally streamlined genomes and are strongly adapted to their many hosts, which provide them with essential nutrients. Owing to their relative genomic simplicity, Mycoplasmas have been used for the development of chassis to deploy tailored vaccines. However, the dearth of robust and precise toolkits for genomic manipulation and tight regulation has hindered any substantial advance. Here, we describe the construction of a robust genetic toolkit for M. pneumoniae, and its successful deployment to engineer synthetic gene switches that control and limit Mycoplasma growth, for biosafety containment applications. We found these synthetic gene circuits to be stable and robust in the long-term, in the context of a minimal cell. With this work, we lay a foundation to develop viable and robust biosafety systems to exploit a synthetic Mycoplasma chassis for live attenuated vaccines or even for live vectors for bio-therapeutics.

 

Prof Geoff Baldwin and Prof Mark Isalan

Prof Geoff Baldwin and Prof Mark Isalan

Prof Geoff Baldwin and Prof Mark Isalan

Accelerating the engineering of biological systems - Geoff Baldwin (Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London)

A genetic toolkit and gene switches to limit Mycoplasma growth for a synthetic vaccine chassis - Mark Isalan (Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London)

 Mycoplasmas have exceptionally streamlined genomes and are strongly adapted to their many hosts, which provide them with essential nutrients. Owing to their relative genomic simplicity, Mycoplasmas have been used for the development of chassis to deploy tailored vaccines. However, the dearth of robust and precise toolkits for genomic manipulation and tight regulation has hindered any substantial advance. Here, we describe the construction of a robust genetic toolkit for M. pneumoniae, and its successful deployment to engineer synthetic gene switches that control and limit Mycoplasma growth, for biosafety containment applications. We found these synthetic gene circuits to be stable and robust in the long-term, in the context of a minimal cell. With this work, we lay a foundation to develop viable and robust biosafety systems to exploit a synthetic Mycoplasma chassis for live attenuated vaccines or even for live vectors for bio-therapeutics.

 

Rising Stars Seminar 17 February 2022

Dr Erika Alden DeBenedictis and Dr Mateo Sanchez Lopez

Dr Erika Alden DeBenedictis and Dr Mateo Sanchez Lopez Seminar 17 February 2022

Systematic molecular evolution using PRANCE
Natural proteins evolved over billions of years, with numerous populations using chance and selection to identify useful proteins. In comparison, directed evolution in the laboratory is perpetually under-powered: more rounds of evolution and more independent populations are needed. This talk describes PRANCE,  an evolution technique that combines liquid handling robotics and molecular engineering techniques to expand the capabilities of laboratory evolution. 
 
Mapping and manipulation of neuronal circuits by directed evolution of TEV protease
Tobacco etch virus protease (TEV) is one of the most widely used proteases in biotechnology and molecular biology because of its exquisite sequence specificity. To overcome the limitation of its slow catalytic rate, I developed a generalizable yeast-based platform for the directed evolution of faster proteases. Protease activity is read out via proteolytic release of a membrane-anchored transcription factor, and we temporally regulate access to TEV’s cleavage substrate using a photosensory LOV domain.
Prof Barbara di Ventura - A question of dynamics

Prof Barbara di Ventura - A question of dynamics

Professor Barbara di Ventura - University of Heidelberg - A question of dynamics - 19 May 2022

In this lecture, I will present our work combining optogenetic experiments, automated image analysis and mathematical modeling to understand which elements on a mammalian promoter play a role in decoding TF dynamics. I will first describe LINuS, a light-inducible nuclear localization system developed by us, then show how, by imposing various TF dynamics with blue light and reading out the response from a library of synthetic promoters built with well-studied and defined elements, we find that sustained and pulsatile activation are distinguishable provided the coupling between TF binding and transcription pre-initiation complex formation is inefficient. Additionally, we show that the efficiency of translation initiation affects the ability of the promoter to sense TF dynamics. Using the knowledge acquired, we built a synthetic circuit that allows us to obtain two gene expression programs (proteins A and B both highly expressed versus protein A highly expressed and protein B only very weakly expressed) depending solely on TF dynamics. Taken together, these results help elucidate how gene expression is regulated in mammalian cells and open up the possibility to build synthetic circuits that respond better to determined TF dynamics.

Dr Ahmad (Mo) Khalil

Dr Ahmad (Mo) Khalil

Dr Ahmad (Mo) Khalil

Cellular innovation by rational design and evolution - Prof Ahmad (Mo) Khalil (Boston University)


Dr. Khalil seeks to understand the design principles of living systems by creating and analyzing synthetic ones in the laboratory. His team has pioneered synthetic biology approaches to rationally construct and dissect the molecular circuits that control gene regulation in eukaryotes, work that has resulted in fundamental discoveries on transcription regulation and epigenetic memory and led to platforms for creating programmable cellular therapies. In addition, his team has developed powerful automation technologies, such as the eVOLVER, that enable researchers to perform laboratory evolution at unprecedented scale. His team is applying these technologies to recreate the evolutionary histories of biological systems in the laboratory and to harness the power of evolution to generate biomolecules with new and improved functions for a variety of applications.

Dr. Khalil’s research has been recognized by numerous awards, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), DoD Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship, NIH New Innovator Award, NSF CAREER Award, DARPA Young Faculty Award, Hartwell Foundation Biomedical Research Award, and election to the AIMBE College of Fellows. He has also received numerous awards for teaching excellence at both the Department and College levels. Khalil was an HHMI Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. James Collins at Boston University. He obtained his Ph.D. with Dr. Angela Belcher at MIT, and his B.S. (Phi Beta Kappa) from Stanford University.

Interrogating and programming microbiomes

Prof Harris Wang

Interrogating and programming microbiomes

Interrogating and programming microbiomes with next-generation synthetic biology

Microbes that live in soil are responsible for a variety of key decomposition and remediation activities in the biosphere. Microbes that colonize the gastrointestinal tract play important roles in host metabolism, immunity, and homeostasis. Better tools to study and alter these microbiomes are essential for unlocking their vast potential to improve human health and the environment. This talk will describe our recent efforts to develop next-generation tools to study and modify microbial communities. Specifically, I will discuss new platforms for automated microbial culturomics, techniques to genetically engineer complex microbial consortia and methods for biocontainment. These emerging capabilities provide a foundation to accelerate the development of microbiome-based products and therapies.