Synthetic Biology: Life Redesigned

Date(s) - 11/29/2021
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Virtual via Zoom

Leadership Seminar: James J. Collins, Ph.D., Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering and Science, MIT Department of Biological Engineering, Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard, The Wyss Institute

Virtual via Zoom & projected in HME, Learning Studio, 135

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Synthetic biology is bringing together engineers, physicists and biologists to model, design and construct biological circuits out of proteins, genes and other bits of DNA, and to use these circuits to rewire and reprogram organisms.  These re-engineered organisms are going to change our lives in the coming years, leading to cheaper drugs, rapid diagnostic tests, and synthetic probiotics to treat infections and a range of complex diseases.  In this talk, we highlight recent efforts to create synthetic gene networks and programmable cells, and discuss a variety of synthetic biology applications in biotechnology and biomedicine.

James J. Collins is the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering and Science in the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science as well as Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT. He is also affiliated with the Broad Institute and the Wyss Institute. His research group works in synthetic biology and systems biology, with a particular focus on using network biology approaches to study antibiotic action, bacterial defense mechanisms, and the emergence of resistance. Professor Collins’ patented technologies have been licensed by over 25 biotech, pharma and medical devices companies, and he has helped to launched a number of companies, including Sample6 Technologies, Synlogic and EnBiotix. He has received numerous awards and honors, including a Rhodes Scholarship, a MacArthur “Genius” Award, an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, a Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award, as well as several teaching awards. Professor Collins is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

Dr. Collins is developing innovative ways to reprogram organisms, particularly bacteria, to perform desired tasks, such as detecting and treating infections. These programmed bacteria could lead to cheaper drugs, rapid diagnostic tests, and more effective treatments for antibiotic-resistant infections and a range of complex diseases. This work is part of the new field of synthetic biology, which Jim founded by combining science and engineering to construct biological circuits that can program organisms, much like we program computers now.