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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 = {Gilbert, C and Tang, T-C and Ott, W and Dorr, B and Shaw, W and Sun, G and Lu, T and Ellis, T},
doi = {10.1038/s41563-020-00857-5},
journal = {Nature Materials},
pages = {691--700},
title = {Living materials with programmable functionalities grown from engineered microbial co-cultures},
url = {},
volume = {20},
year = {2021}

RIS format (EndNote, RefMan)

AB - Biological systems assemble living materials that are autonomously patterned, can self-repair and can sense and respond to their environment. The field of engineered living materials aims to create novel materials with properties similar to those of natural biomaterials using genetically-engineered organisms. Here we describe an approach to fabricate functional bacterial cellulose-based living materials using a stable co-culture of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast and bacterial cellulose-producing Komagataeibacter rhaeticus bacteria. Yeast strains can be engineered to secrete enzymes into bacterial cellulose, generating autonomously grown catalytic materials and enabling DNA-encoded modification of bacterial cellulose bulk properties. Alternatively, engineered yeast can be incorporated within the growing cellulose matrix, creating living materials that can sense and respond to chemical and optical stimuli. This symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast is a flexible platform for the production of bacterial cellulosed-based engineered living materials with potential applications in biosensing and biocatalysis.
AU - Gilbert,C
AU - Tang,T-C
AU - Ott,W
AU - Dorr,B
AU - Shaw,W
AU - Sun,G
AU - Lu,T
AU - Ellis,T
DO - 10.1038/s41563-020-00857-5
EP - 700
PY - 2021///
SN - 1476-1122
SP - 691
TI - Living materials with programmable functionalities grown from engineered microbial co-cultures
T2 - Nature Materials
UR -
UR -
UR -
VL - 20
ER -