Keynote Speakers

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Ron Weiss

Professor, Biological Engineering
Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

Synthetic Biology: From Parts to Modules to Therapeutic Systems

Abstract

Synthetic biology is revolutionizing how we conceptualize and approach the engineering of biological systems. Recent advances in the field are allowing us to expand beyond the construction and analysis of small gene networks towards the implementation of complex multicellular systems with a variety of applications. In this talk I will describe our integrated computational / experimental approach to engineering complex behavior in a variety of cells, with a focus on mammalian cells. In our research, we appropriate design principles from electrical engineering and other established fields. These principles include abstraction, standardization, modularity, and computer aided design. But we also spend considerable effort towards understanding what makes synthetic biology different from all other existing engineering disciplines and discovering new design and construction rules that are effective for this unique discipline. We will briefly describe the implementation of genetic circuits and modules with finely-tuned digital and analog behavior and the use of artificial cell-cell communication to coordinate the behavior of cell populations. The first system to be presented is a genetic circuit that can detect and destroy specific cancer cells based on the presence or absence or specific biomarkers in the cell. We will also discuss preliminary experimental results for obtaining precise spatiotemporal control over stem cell differentiation for tissue engineering applications. We will conclude by discussing the design and preliminary results for creating an artificial tissue homeostasis system where genetically engineered stem cells maintain indefinitely a desired level of pancreatic beta cells despite attacks by the autoimmune response, relevant for diabetes.

Short Biography

Dr. Ron Weiss, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Engineering & Electrical Engineering Computer Science, and Director, MIT Synthetic Biology Center, is a member of Program 1. The Weiss Laboratory seeks to create integrated biological systems capable of autonomously performing useful tasks, and to elucidate the design principles underlying complex phenotypes. The lab addresses cancer research challenges through the design and delivery of new genetic circuits. For example, the lab has designed cancer classifier circuits capable of identifying target cancer cell lines by sensing and responding to differences in the concentration of multiple microRNAs within a cell. The lab is currently working to both refine miRNA profiling techniques in order to gain high resolution and dynamic gain and to extend the capability of multi-input sensors to assess a variety of cellular phenotypes relevant to cancer, including proliferation state, metabolic state, and repair states. A scalable platform to rapidly fabricate and evaluate large libraries of single and multi-input sensors is being built using a new open source microfluidic platform. In addition, the lab continues to refine cancer classifier circuit architecture to improve selectivity and reduce size in order to accommodate inclusion in viral vectors and other delivery modalities. To this end the lab is constructing a new HSV1-based viral vector using a Bacterial Artificial Chromosome (BAC) between UL37 and UL38 of the HSV-1 genome. Finally, the lab is working to ensure that transient gene circuit operation does not significantly impact healthy cells.

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Peter J. Burke

Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Professor, Biomedical Engineering
The Henry Samueli School of Engineering
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-2625

Towards a Single-cell Radio

Abstract

In this talk, I will discuss the challenges and opportunities of THz electronics for the next generation internet of things. Realistic and projected scaling laws for nano-radios will be proposed and presented, with special attention to the issue of antenna scaling with frequency, size, and medium (including physiological fluids for in-vivo applications), as well as power sources (DC, RF, lightwave).

Short Biography

Peter Burke is a pioneer in nanoelectronics and its application to biotechnology. He is the recipient numerous awards including Young Investigator award from the Office of Naval Research, the Young Investigator Program award from the Army Research Office. His lab has made fundamental contributions to nanotube and graphene electronics, nanoelectromagneitcs, as well as microchip based instrumentation for nano-electrophysiology and metabolomics. He received the Ph.D. degree in physics from Yale University, New Haven, CT, in 1998. From 1998 to 2001, he was a Sherman Fairchild Postdoctoral Scholar in physics at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. He is currently a Professor in the Departments of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Chemistry & Materials Science and Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering at the University of California, Irvine.

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