(6ay) Developing Novel Biocatalysts Using Synthetic Biology

Hong, S. H., Northwestern University

Synthetic biology is an emerging field to develop new biological systems that perform novel functions for useful purposes. The field has been rapidly growing by designing synthetic genetic circuits, demonstrating biological principles, and developing artificial cells. Advances made have inspired a variety of new applications in industrial and clinical processing to address current needs in sustainable energy and food supply as well as novel therapeutics development. However, it is still early in the development of real-world applications of synthetic biology, and progress is limited by the complexity and the unexpected responses of biological systems. My faculty research program seeks to address this limitation. We will develop biocatalysts for a variety of applications by using interdisciplinary approaches that analyze, understand, and control cellular processes on a molecular and systems level. Specifically, I am interested in three areas: i) engineering biofilms for disease treatment and therapeutics production ii) cell-free synthetic biology for developing artificial metabolic pathways that are impossible, or otherwise difficult, to generate using cell-based systems, and iii) microbial electrosynthesis using engineered biofilms and cell-free systems to convert electricity to biochemical, therapeutics, and fuels. I will apply a unique and diverse set of skills in synthetic biology, protein engineering, genome engineering, and cell-free engineering for the development of novel biocatalysts and biosynthesis pathways for clinical and industrial uses. My work will allow me to build a leading research program for compelling applications in medicine, basic science and quantitative applied biotechnology.