Cell Free Systems Conference

December 4-6, 2019
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The Cell Free Systems Conference will focus on understanding, harnessing and expanding the capabilities of biological systems without living intact cells.

Abstract Deadline: Thursday, October 31, 2019

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Conference Flyer

NSF’s support may be available to students/post docs who submit an abstract.Women and members of underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged to apply.


Session Topics:

  1. Diagnostics and Circuits
  2. Building Biology
  3. Circuits and Measurement
  4. Prototyping and Characterization
  5. Manufacturing

Keynote Speakers:

Invited Speakers:

Conference Chairs:

Organizing Committee:

  • Kate Adamala, University of Minnesota
  • Bradley Bundy, Bringham Young University
  • Neha Kamat, Northwestern University
  • Andrew Ellington, University of Texas
  • Elisa Franco, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Paul Freemont, Imperial College London
  • Emily Leproust, Twist Bioscience
  • Julius Lucks, Northwestern University 
  • Matthew Lux, Department of Defense 
  • Richard Murray, California Institute of Technology
  • Keith Pardee, University of Toronto
  • Elizabeth Strychalski, National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Zachary Sun, Tierra Biosciences
  • Melissa Takahashi, California State University
  • Takuya Ueda, Waseda University, Tokyo
  • James Zawada, Sutro Biopharma

Poster Session Chair:

  • Javin Oza, California Polytechnic State University


Featured Speakers

Kate Adamala

Kate received a MSc in chemistry from the University of Warsaw, Poland, studying synthetic organic chemistry. In grad school, she worked with professor Pier Luigi Luisi from University Roma Tre and Jack Szostak from Harvard University. She studied RNA biophysics, small peptide catalysis and liposome dynamics, in an effort to build a chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution.

Kate’s postdoctoral work in Ed Boyden’s Synthetic Neurobiology group at MIT focused on developing novel methods for multiplex control and readout of mammalian cells....Read more

Patricia Buckley

Dr. Patricia Buckley is a Supervisory Biologist at the Chemical Biological Center (CBC), which is part of the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command in the Department of Defense.  In this position, she leads a team of scientists exploring interdisciplinary research and development efforts to develop new concepts, molecular models, and novel techniques to advance mission requirements and capabilities for the warfighter. Specifically, her team is looking to develop synthetic biology tools, focusing in cell-free lysates, for use in a wide range of fieldable sensors. Prior to...Read more

Carole Cobb

Carole Cobb is Chief Operating Officer at GreenLight Biosciences, Inc., the bio-performance company developing RNA-based solutions for agriculture and pharmaceutical applications, where she leads GreenLight’s efforts to scale their proprietary bioprocessing method. She has over 30 years of experience in Biotechnology including roles in Fermentation-based Commercial Manufacturing, Process Development, Plant Operations and Supply Chain Management. Prior to joining GreenLight, Ms. Cobb was the SVP, Global Supply, for Danisco A/S and Genencor International. Ms. Cobb holds a M.B.A. in Finance...Read more

James Collins

James Collins is the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering & Science and Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT, as well as a Member of the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences & Technology Faculty. He is also a Core Founding Faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, and an Institute Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. His research group works in synthetic biology and systems biology, with a particular focus on using network biology approaches to study antibiotic action, bacterial defense mechanisms, and the emergence of resistance.Read more

Marileen Dogterom

Prof. dr. Marileen Dogterom is a University Professor at the TU Delft and Medical Delta Professor at Leiden University. She is internationally renowned expert in experimental cell biophysics with a pioneering track record in biophysical research of the microtubule cytoskeleton. Over the years, her group has systematically worked on increasing functional biological complexity in reconstitution experiments, which paved the way for her current and future ambition to build synthetic cells. She published ~100 papers in high-ranking physics and biology journals. Dogterom actively and frequently...Read more

Paul Freemont

Professor Paul Freemont is the co-founder of the Imperial College Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation (2009) and co-founder and co-director of the National UK Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology (SynbiCITE; since 2013) and Director of the London BioFoundry (since 2016) at Imperial College London. He is also currently the Head of the Section of Structural Biology in the new Department of Infectious Diseases at Imperial. He was previously the Head of the Division of Molecular Biosciences at Imperial (2005-2012), Head of the Imperial College Centre for Structural...Read more

Trevor J. Hallam

Dr. Trevor Hallam has more than 25 years of experience in pharmaceutical discovery and development.  He joined Sutro Biopharma as CSO in late 2010.  Since then Dr. Hallam has shaped Sutro's biochemical synthesis technology to generate a disruptive discovery and manufacturing platform for novel best-in-class bispecific and antibody-drug conjugate protein therapeutics.  Prior to Sutro, Dr. Hallam has held several senior R&D positions in the US and Europe, most recently Vice President Biologics, Vice President U.S. Medical Affairs, and Vice President, Research and Pre-...Read more

Sebastian Maerkl

Prof. Maerkl received B.S. degrees in Biology and in Chemistry from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in 2001. He then joined the Biophysics and Biochemistry Department at the California Institute of Technology and contributed to the early development of microfluidic technology in the laboratory of Prof. Stephen Quake. For his graduate work Prof. Maerkl was awarded the Demetriades-Tasfka-Kokalis prize for the best Caltech PhD thesis in the field of Biotechnology. He was also awarded 1st place at the Innovator’s Challenge, a competition amongst inventors and entrepreneurs from Stanford...Read more

Eugenia Romantseva

Eugenia (Jane) Romantseva is a staff engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), supporting the Cellular Engineering Group and working to provide a foundation of measurement assurance to support the control and rational design of biological function. Jane leads NIST’s efforts to develop measurement tools and methods for reproducible and comparable use of cell-free systems. As part of this effort, she automates steps in typical cell-free workflows and adapts and optimizes common cell-based protocols for use with cell-free systems. She also applies her extensive...Read more

Rebecca Schulman

Rebecca Schulman is an associate professor in the Departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Computer Science and a member of the Institute for Nanobiotechnology and the Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics at The Johns Hopkins University.  Her research focuses on the development of intelligent and adaptive biomolecular materials and nanostructures and combines ideas from materials science, circuit design and cell-free synthetic biology.  Dr. Schulman joined JHU after working as a Miller Postdoctoral Fellowship in physics at UC Berkeley. She received...Read more

Zachary Sun

Zachary Sun, CEO of Tierra Biosciences (formerly Synvitrobio), has been developing fundamental synthetic biology technologies since 2006, and has published work on MAGE genomic engineering in Nature and on a cell-free prototyping environment in eLife. The latter forms the basis for Tierra Biosciences, which he founded in 2015 to conduct natural product discovery using cell-free synthetic biology. He holds a PhD in biology from Caltech and AB in biology from Harvard.Read more

James Swartz

Dr. Swartz obtained his B.S.Ch.E. from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. After working for two years for Union Oil Co. of California, he attended M.I.T. where he earned his M.S. and D.Sc. in chemical engineering and biochemical engineering, respectively. His focus on the development and control of fermentation processes led him to a scientific exchange visit to the U.S.S.R. and to an initial research position at Eli Lilly and Co. in Indianapolis. In 1981, he joined Genentech, where he served in both scientific and managerial positions related to rDNA protein production for...Read more