Synthetic Biology is an interdisciplinary research and technology field which strives to develop tools and methodologies that aid the design of biological systems and living organisms for useful purposes
Development of controllers for synthetic biology
In engineering, control theory helps to deal with the behaviour of dynamical systems so that the system output follows a desired control signal. In everyday life applications of control theory can be found in the cruise control system of the car or when we set our house thermostat. In synthetic biology, control theory has the potential to enhance the performance and robustness of synthetic gene circuits.
Tools for engineering cell to cell communication
Just like humans, bacteria like to talk to each other and other members of their communities. They are able to do this by the release of simple diffusible chemicals or small peptides that allows them to co-ordinate behaviour and maximise their chances of survival. The simple genetic architecture of AHL based quorum systems has been leveraged extensively by synthetic biologists to engineer synthetic cell to cell communication modules.
Tools for engineering microbial consortia
In nature, microorganisms do not exist in isolation but interact and cooperate in complex ecosystems, a phenomenon which synthetic biological systems have yet to fully harness. From creating antibiotic-free human therapeutics, microbiome engineering, to reprogrammable and dynamic biomaterials, engineering cooperation into synthetic ecosystems has the potential to change how we use biology forever.
Synthetic biology biosensor design
Biosensors are compact, integrated analytical devices that use a biologically derived sensor element to specifically detect their target analyte. Their design makes them convenient for the performance of diagnostic tests at the site where the sample is procured. Synthetic biology has been extensively applied to biosensor design to produce genetically encoded devices that detect metal and organic contaminants, drug molecules and metabolites.
QUORUM SENSING & SYNTHETIC CONSORTIA
TOOLS FOR ENGINEERING SYNTHETIC MICROBIAL CONSORTIA
In this research we aim at increasing the number of available tools that would allow synthetic biologists the design of synthetic microbial communities for novel applications. We designed and constructed AHL-receiver devices from components of various quorum sensing systems and characterised their response function and crosstalk interactions between . Also, we design computational tools to allow the facile design of microbial consortia.
Publications & tools
Kylilis, N., Tuza, Z. A., Stan, G. B., & Polizzi, K. M. (2018). Tools for engineering coordinated system behaviour in synthetic microbial consortia. Nature communications, 9(1), 2677.
DEVELOPING A FRAMEWORK FOR ENGINEERING CO-CULTURES
As this project's manager, I am extremely proud of what this team had achieved in such a short period of time:
"In nature, cells cooperate to perform complex tasks all the time. From the depths of our bowels, to the dirt we walk on, we are surrounded by intricate networks of intercellular cooperation.
To take synthetic biology to the next level, we embarked in an effort to develop the foundations for the design of robust bacterial communities.
Microbiome engineering, bacterial based computer systems, synthetic ecosystems for space colonisation. All of these can be the future application of next generation synthetic biology if taken to the multicellular level."
Imperial College team iGEM 2016
Grand Prize Winners (Undergraduates)
Best Foundational Advance Winners
SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY BIOSENSOR DESIGN FOR MEDICAL DIAGNOSTICS
This research investigated synthetic biology biosensor designs for the detection of protein analytes and developed such technologies featuring high specificity sensor elements. One of the technologies developed features a single domain antibody (nanobody) which is surface displayed on E. coli cells. A second technology developed features a RNA-aptamer sensor element incorporated into a RNA-switch device. Since the prototyped designs feature sensor elements that can be evolved in vitro for the specific recognition of any protein target at will, the technologies developed here can potentially be utilised as platforms for the development of low cost biosensor devices for use in medical diagnostic applications.