BioE Seminar Series: Programming at the Interface of Synthetic and Natural Cellular Networks

Thursday, November 3, 2022

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Schiciano B

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Ahmad Khalil, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University

Ahmad (Mo) Khalil is the Dorf-Ebner Distinguished Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and the Founding Associate Director of the Biological Design Center at Boston University. He is also a Visiting Scholar at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, and Co-Director of a NIH/NIGMS T32 PhD Training Program in synthetic biology. His research is broadly interested in learning the design principles underlying the function and evolution of biological networks, and in turn developing methods to predictively engineer them to program therapeutically-useful cellular functions. His lab is also developing methods to recreate and harness the process of evolution, specifically by developing novel technologies, such as the eVOLVER, that enable this process to occur rapidly, autonomously, and at scale in the laboratory. He is recipient of numerous awards, including a Schmidt Science Polymath Award, Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), DoD Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship, NIH New Innovator Award, NSF CAREER Award, DARPA Young Faculty Award, and Hartwell Foundation Biomedical Research Award, and he has received numerous awards for teaching excellence at both the Department and College levels. Mo was an HHMI Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. James Collins at Boston University. He obtained his Ph.D. from MIT and his B.S. (Phi Beta Kappa) from Stanford University. Constructing and introducing synthetic biological systems into living cells presents unique opportunities to examine design principles of biological networks and to harness this understanding for creating new therapeutic modalities. In this talk, I will describe two studies that examine and exploit the interface between artificial circuits and the natural pathways with which they interact. In the first study, I will describe how we are using synthetic circuits in yeast to understand how gene regulatory specificity can emerge in eukaryotic transcriptional networks. As we better understand the design rules of transcription circuits, we have also become interested in translating our insights into platforms for creating programmable cellular therapies. The second study focuses on cell signaling systems, where our goal is to design synthetic systems that deliberately interface with and gain the ability to precisely perturb GPCR signaling networks, with implications for basic discovery and new therapeutics.


Michael Humphreys