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Synthetic Biology underpins advances in the bioeconomy

Biological systems - including the simplest cells - exhibit a broad range of functions to thrive in their environment. Research in the Imperial College Centre for Synthetic Biology is focused on the possibility of engineering the underlying biochemical processes to solve many of the challenges facing society, from healthcare to sustainable energy. In particular, we model, analyse, design and build biological and biochemical systems in living cells and/or in cell extracts, both exploring and enhancing the engineering potential of biology. 

As part of our research we develop novel methods to accelerate the celebrated Design-Build-Test-Learn synthetic biology cycle. As such research in the Centre for Synthetic Biology highly multi- and interdisciplinary covering computational modelling and machine learning approaches; automated platform development and genetic circuit engineering ; multi-cellular and multi-organismal interactions, including gene drive and genome engineering; metabolic engineering; in vitro/cell-free synthetic biology; engineered phages and directed evolution; and biomimetics, biomaterials and biological engineering.



BibTex format

author = {Moya-Ramirez, I and Kontoravdi, K and Polizzi, K},
doi = {10.1016/j.bios.2019.05.008},
journal = {Biosensors and Bioelectronics},
pages = {199--206},
title = {Low-cost and user-friendly biosensor to test the integrity of mRNA molecules suitable for field applications},
url = {},
volume = {137},
year = {2019}

RIS format (EndNote, RefMan)

AB - The use of mRNA in biotechnology has expanded with novel applications such as vaccines and therapeutic mRNA delivery recently demonstrated. For mRNA to be used in patients, quality control assays will need to be routinely established. Currently, there is a gap between the highly sophisticated RNA integrity tests available and broader application of mRNA-based products by non-specialist users, e.g. in mass vaccination campaigns. Therefore, the aim of this work was to develop a low-cost biosensor able to test the integrity of a mRNA molecule with low technological requirements and easy end-user application. The biosensor is based on a bi-functional fusion protein, composed by the λN peptide that recognizes its cognate aptamer encoded on the 5’ end of the RNA under study and β-lactamase, which is able to produce a colorimetric response through a simple test. We propose two different mechanisms for signal processing adapted to two levels of technological sophistication, one based on spectrophotometric measurements and other on visual inspection. We show that the proposed λN-βLac chimeric protein specifically targets its cognate RNA aptamer, boxB, using both gel shift and biolayer interferometry assays. More importantly, the results presented confirm the biosensor performs reliably, with a wide dynamic range and a proportional response at different percentages of full-length RNA, even when gene-sized mRNAs were used. Thus, the features of the proposed biosensor would allow to end-users of products such as mRNA vaccines to test the integrity of the product before its application in a low-cost fashion, enabling a more reliable application of these products.
AU - Moya-Ramirez,I
AU - Kontoravdi,K
AU - Polizzi,K
DO - 10.1016/j.bios.2019.05.008
EP - 206
PY - 2019///
SN - 0956-5663
SP - 199
TI - Low-cost and user-friendly biosensor to test the integrity of mRNA molecules suitable for field applications
T2 - Biosensors and Bioelectronics
UR -
UR -
VL - 137
ER -