Synthetic Biology

Synthetic Biology (SynBio) offers the prospect of the design and construction of new biological pathways and-or systems that do not exist in nature. Using a “bottom-up approach” of assembling the components involved in biochemical pathways, SynBio thus uses engineering tools and principles to assemble new (synthetic) systems. It has the potential to use exploit our biological understanding in much the same way that circuit design enabled electronics, creating new technologies from living components.

We work in close partnership with researchers in the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, within a multidisciplinary group across the University. (More information available)

Research topics
Professor Jon Cooper Professor Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez
Dr Julien Reboud Dr Alasdair Clark
 Professor Huabing Yin  

Synthetic Cells and Systems

Pr. Jon Cooper, Dr. Julien Reboud, Pr. Huabing Yin

Synthetic biology looks into the design and construction of new biological functions and systems not already found in nature and the recreation of natural systems synthetically in the lab. Microtechnologies can be used to advantage in synthetic biology to control small amounts of fluids and to pattern substrates onto which the biology can be attached.

Using a “bottom-up approach” of assembling components, such as biochemical pathways, this has the potential to exploit our biological understanding in much the same way that circuit design enabled electronics. Our research is focused on all the different scales of Synthetic Biology.

At the molecular scale, we develop synthetic recombinase systems for use in the rapid generation, evolution and optimisation of gene circuits and metabolic pathways. These techniques have also been used in our labs to assemble molecular constructs on surfaces using microarray technologies.

At the cellular level, we are creating artificial cell surrogates, or protocells, which enable biochemical pathways to be reconstructed, to perform complex processing steps. We have already expressed membrane-associated proteins in such protocells and watched them assemble in the artificial cells using time-resolved techniques.

Using microfluidic devices, we integrate all these different platforms to address several of the issues that currently hinder the rational design of gene circuits. We are interested in developing this platform for parallel, high-throughput in vitro assays, and the idea that by miniaturising laboratory functions microfluidics could permit large-scale 'prototyping' of synthetic constructs.