Cheemeng Tan
Postdoctoral Fellow
Carnegie Mellon University

“Creating Synthetic Biological Systems with Coupled Genetic and Non-genetic Control Elements”

Synthetic biology is a multi-disciplinary field, which integrates understanding in biology with principles from engineering, physics, and chemistry for the design and creation of new biologically-relevant systems. Synthetic biology has made tremendous recent strides in engineering synthetic cellular systems using minimal cell components, creating an experimental platform for characterizing the behavior of isolated cellular modules and a form of biotechnology for the controlled operation of synthetic cells. The robustness and efficiency of these systems are nonetheless challenging to control, in part because a synthetic gene circuit is often engineered by focusing only on genetic control elements. Here, I demonstrate how non-genetic control elements, including host growth rates and molecular crowding, can lead to emergent dynamics of synthetic biological systems. My work has implications for efficient and robust control of both synthetic and natural cellular circuits and underscores the critical need to account for non-genetic control elements when engineering gene circuits. In addition, my work establishes a foundation towards integrating synthetic cellular components of biological circuits and artificial cells for biotechnological applications.

Bio: Cheemeng received his B.Eng. degree (first class honors) from National University of Singapore and his M.S. degree in High Performance Computing from Singapore-MIT Alliance. In 2005, he started his doctoral research in the Department of Biomedical Engineeringat Duke University., where he evolved into a hybrid computational and microbial biologist. His Ph.D. thesis focused on implications of bacterial growth on antibiotic treatment and synthetic gene circuits. He published his research in journals such as Nature Chemical Biology and Molecular Systems Biology and was awarded the Medtronic Fellowship, the Lane Fellowship, and the Society in Science – Branco Weiss Fellowship. His career goal is to improve the rational engineering of synthetic biological systems by tightly integrating both experiments and computational algorithms. At Carnegie Mellon University, he works on the engineering of artificial cells that carry synthetic gene circuits, which have potential impact on drug delivery and bioremediation.

When: Monday, March 4, 2013 10:30 AM

Where: 1005 GBSF