Synthetic Biology

Constructing a genome from parts – challenges and opportunities

Tom Ellis

Imperial College London, UK


Research interests

Dr Ellis's main research interests are synthetic biology, geno engineering, the function of DNA sequence, standards in biological engineering and extreme life and the origin of cells.

Twitter: @DrTomEllis
Website: Ellis lab


Speaker abstract

Synthetic biology seeks to understand and derive value from biology via its re-design and synthesis using engineering principles. Despite its early stage, synthetic biology has already shown great potential to make both scientific breakthroughs and yield applications. Within synthetic biology are emerging areas that include re-wiring of gene regulation for novel cellular functions, new methods for DNA synthesis and assembly, rational biopart design and the use of mathematical modelling and software tools to inform biological design. The one area of synthetic biology that has had the greatest impact on the public so far has been genome engineering, via the complete synthesis and operation of a cellular genome in 2010 by Craig Venter and others. While this work provided a landmark moment for the subject, we are still far away from understanding how to rationally go from a set of parts to designer genomes. Most synthetic biology so far has been writing Apps, but sooner or later someone will have to write a complete OS. In this talk I will discuss our lab’s efforts to tie together parts-based synthetic biology, systems biology and genome engineering towards the end goal of writing a custom genome.

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