Naturally-inspired engineering of biological systems

26 February 2016

Ahmad Khalil
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University
Visiting Scholar, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University


Many biological functions are carried out by stable molecular complexes that assemble from many constituent interactions. Molecular assemblies play key roles within cellular networks, from transcriptional to signaling, serving as information processing hubs and allowing increased programmability of network connections in space and time.

I will describe our efforts combining synthetic biology and theory to explore and engineer this form of cellular regulation, using eukaryotic transcription as a model. I will also share some recent work to study and control a second, intriguing class of molecular assemblies: the self-replicating forms of prions. Throughout, I will highlight technologies we have developed for subjecting cells to complex environmental conditions and studying their dynamic responses. The long-term goal of our work is to develop a molecular programming language that looks more like the language evolution has built, thereby providing a systematic, bottom-up framework for studying biological networks and a powerful, naturally-inspired means of engineering new cellular functions.

current theory lunch schedule