We Engineer Biology in Light of Evolution
We are a Synthetic Biology research group dedicated to exploiting evolution for better engineering biology.
What is Synthetic Biology? The definition can vary. We believe the concept reflects the desire of mankind to rationally engineer biology. Synthetic biologists build artificial biological systems based on natural rules. As Feynman famously puts it, "What I cannot create I don't understand". If we understand the underlying mechanisms, a functional system can be rationally built. Yet, biological systems can be far more complex than we can understand. For example, we still lack a full knowledge to build a functional protein from scratch, let alone a genome or a cell. To circumvent such complexity, we turn to evolution as a semi-rational method for generating novel functions.
Natural evolution is the sole process that generated the biodiversity on our planet Earth. This process took billions of years and was impacted by uncontrolled environmental events. Rational or not, our ancestors adopted the same rules to breed improved crops and animals. As synthetic biologists we put rational layers to better steer and speed up the process. The so-called Directed Evolution optimizes proteins and cells toward desired functions in a laboratory time scale. At the core of directed evolution are technologies enabling high-throughput gene/genome editing and functional selection/screening. One goal of our group is to develop such editing technologies and selection/screening schemes for eukaryotic cell engineering, with applications in biomanufacturing and medicine.
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Genome-scale engineering of Saccharomyces cerevisiae with single nucleotide precision
We developed a CRISPR–Cas9- and homology-directed-repair-assisted genome-scale engineering method named CHAnGE that can rapidly output tens of thousands of specific genetic variants in yeast. More than 98% of target sequences were efficiently edited with an average frequency of 82%. We validate the single-nucleotide resolution genome-editing capability of this technology by creating a genome-wide gene disruption collection and apply our method to improve tolerance to growth inhibitors.