Ron Weiss, Professor
My research focuses on programming new cellular behaviors by designing and embedding synthetic gene networks that perform desired functions in single cells and multi-cellular environments. We genetically engineer a variety of cell types including bacteria, yeast, and mammalian cells (including stem cells). This nascent field of synthetic biology holds promise for a wide range of applications such as programmed tissue engineering, cancer therapeutics, environmental biosensing and effecting, biomaterial fabrication, and an improved understanding of naturally occuring biological processes.
Chris Voigt, Professor
We are developing a basis by which cells can be programmed like robots to perform complex, coordinated tasks for pharmaceutical and industrial applications. We are engineering new sensors that give bacteria the senses of touch, sight, and smell. Genetic circuits — analogous to their electronic counterparts — are built to integrate the signals from the various sensors. Finally, the output of the gene circuits is used to control cellular processes. We are also developing theoretical tools from statistical mechanics and non-linear dynamics to understand how to combine genetic devices and predict their collective behavior.
Peter Carr, Senior Scientist, Lincoln Laboratory
Our synthetic biology research program at MIT Lincoln Laboratory seeks to expand the reach of what can be achieved by engineering living systems, whether at the level of single genes, entire genomes, or complex communities. Research interests include: 1) High throughput methods for rapidly prototyping genetic designs, incorporating gene synthesis, DNA error correction, microfluidics, and cell-free translation; 2) Engineering the genetic code throughout entire organisms—providing resistance to viral infection while producing “genetic firewalls” to block gene flow to and from of these organisms; 3) Tools (software, hardware, wetware) for enhancing biosafety and biosecurity.
Domitilla Del Vecchio, Associate Professor
My group focuses on the foundations of modular design in biomolecular circuits through a combined theoretical approach (based on control theory) and experimental approach (based on simple gene and signaling circuits fabricated in E. coli). In particular, we are investigating impedance-like effects, called retroactivity, the design of insulation devices to buffer systems from retroactivity, fundamental limitations in signal transmission, energetic transactions among cellular components, and loading problems on the cellular chassis.
Timothy Lu, Associate Professor
Tim received his undergraduate and M.Eng. degrees from MIT in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He obtained an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and Ph.D. from the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Medical Engineering and Medical Physics Program. Tim has won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, Grand Prize in the National Inventor Hall of Fame’s Collegiate Inventors Competition, and the Leon Reznick Memorial Prize for “outstanding performance in research” from Harvard Medical School. He has also been selected as a Kavli Fellow by the National Academy of Sciences and a Siebel Scholar.
Jacquin C. Niles, Associate Professor
Our research emphasizes developing and using novel molecular tools to address outstanding questions in infectious diseases. Our specific focus is on malaria and the causative pathogen, Plasmodium falciparum. We take advantage of model systems to efficiently validate and optimize the design of new tools intended to address unmet needs in our target pathogen. In this process, we simultaneously produce solutions that are applicable across a range of model and pathogenic organisms, and broadly useful in both basic and applied biology efforts. We are highly multi-disciplinary in our approach, and integrate expertise in diverse areas including: biomolecular engineering; chemical biology; synthetic biology; analytical chemistry; biochemistry; and molecular and cell biology.
Kristala J. Prather, Associate Professor
Kristala Prather’s research interests are centered on the design and assembly of recombinant microorganisms for the production of small molecules, with additional efforts in novel bioprocess design approaches. Research combines the traditions of metabolic engineering with the practices of biocatalysis to expand and optimize the biosynthetic capacity of microbial systems. A particular focus is the elucidation of design principles for the production of unnatural organic compounds within the framework of the burgeoning field of synthetic biology.