Jack Szostak on Synthetic Biology [Interview]

Synthetic Biology: Engineering, Evolution & Design (SEED) is a conference that brings together professors and like minds familiar to the world of synthetic biology. It features multiple sessions focusing on advances in science, technology, applications and related investments in the field of synthetic biology.

Jack Szostak will be a keynote speaker at SEED 2019. He will be touching on the vast range of approaches that are being used to ultimately reconstruct living cells from parts. He will also speak about the questions raised from these processes that could potentially uncover the origin of life.

His speech will be conducted at the SEED 2019 Conference. I spoke with Jack about his work and the importance of advances in synthetic biology.

In your opinion, what is the most important current trend in synthetic biology?

Much of synthetic biology is aimed at understanding and reconstituting specific cellular subsystems. To me, the increasing integration of multiple systems is an interesting and important trend. Ultimately this should lead to the ability to reconstruct living cells from parts. The total synthesis of living cells from synthetic components, including components of inverse chirality or that are otherwise distinct from the components of extant biology is an exciting if difficult challenge.

What message would you like the audience to take away from this year's SEED?

Hopefully the audience will gain an appreciation of the variety of questions being asked and the wide range of approaches being used.

How do you envision synthetic biology advancing some of the Grand Challenges in engineering and society?

Although much of synthetic biology is driven by potential long-term applications, I find the possibility of addressing fundamental questions more compelling. For example, our work is focused on learning about how life may have emerged in the first place, while complete cell reconstruction efforts will tell us if there are as yet unknown aspects of cell structure or function that are essential for life.

The 2019 Synthetic Biology: Engineering, Evolution & Design (SEED) conference will be held in New York from June 23-27, 2019. Learn more and register today.

Jack W. Szostak

Dr. Szostak received his B.Sc. from McGill University in Montreal in 1972, and his Ph.D. from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, in 1977.  Dr. Szostak is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, and the Alex Rich Distinguished Investigator in the Dept. of Molecular Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. From 2000 until the present Dr. Szostak’s research interests have focused on the laboratory synthesis of self-replicating systems and the origin of life.