“Our group engineers microbial cells and harnesses molecular interactions for clinical and industrial applications. Many of our work includes autonomous control of gene expression in vivo and in vitro. This control enables wide-range of applications in metabolic engineering, molecular diagnostics, and drug discovery and production.”
Synthetic biology with the engineering-driven strategies, has been increasingly applied to many industrial and clinical applications. The main focus in the field of synthetic biology has now moved onto more practical applications rather than the ‘proof-of-principle’ type of examples. Our group pursues highly interdisciplinary research of molecular biology, genetic engineering, and metabolic engineering to develop programmable living cellular machine and biomolecular devices for open environmental applications. Our research focus is divided into three principal areas.
Engineering genetic circuits to control microbial cells
Our long-term goal is to develop autonomous microbial control system in response to extracellular environmental changes. To enable such control in an open environment, regulatory sensor protein and genetic circuit are the key components.
By rewiring and combining the components, we can program simple decision logic in response to inputs, and thus multiple input signals can be combined and computed as the decision logic provided. We previously developed various synthetic gene networks that can perform programmed behavior depending on the inputs; genome-integrated toggle switches and microbial kill switches. Typical application area of using the genetic circuit includes probiotics engineering for microbiome application, living environmental sensing in a clinical setting, and autonomous gene expression control for metabolic engineering examples.
Programmable and precise molecular diagnostics
Genome sequencing information for individuals are now accumulating faster than ever, and predictive biomarkers for diagnosing cancers and human diseases become more accurate and reliable due to better understanding on the molecular mechanism. Recently, RNA-switch-based molecular diagnostics on a regular paper for rapid and low-cost RNA detection of Ebola and Zika viruses has been demonstrated. Clinically relevant concentration of viral samples can be detected by programmable RNA-based sensors or RNA-guided CRISPR systems. We are exploring such core molecular mechanisms that can target a diverse range of biomolecules in a more accurate and sensitive way.
Therapeutic biomolecule production
Freeze-dried and cell-free manufacturing platform now allows on-site and on-demand manufacturing of therapeutic biomolecules. The manufacture and functional validation on a diverse range of molecules including antimicrobial peptides, vaccines, antibody conjugates, and small therapeutic molecules demonstrate the wide applicability of this technology. Biomolecular vignettes that can be synthesized through this system could be expanded for more diverse on-demand and on-site applications.
More details will be updated soon.