Molecular circuits of interacting genes and proteins implement the core information processing functions required for life. The ability to rationally design synthetic circuits that operate predictably would allow us to use cells as versatile programmable devices, enabling powerful new therapeutic applications. However, achieving this vision depends on understanding the non-intuitive principles that allow some circuit designs to operate much more effectively than others within the cell. To discover these principles, we take a build-to-understand approach: designing, constructing, and analyzing synthetic circuits in mammalian cells. We focus on foundational capabilities such as computation (signal processing), cell-cell communication, and memory, and find inspiration in outwardly mysterious features of natural circuit designs generated by evolution. In this talk, I will describe new work that brings these approaches to the level of multicellular circuits, providing designs for private communication channels, cell population control, and synthetic cell fate control systems.
Michael Elowitz is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering at Caltech. Dr. Elowitz's laboratory has introduced synthetic biology approaches to build and understand genetic circuits in living cells and tissues. Elowitz developed the Repressilator, an artificial genetic clock that generates gene expression oscillations in individual E. coli cells, and since then has continued to design and build other synthetic genetic circuits for programming or rewiring cellular functions. His lab also showed that gene expression is intrinsically stochastic, or ‘noisy’, and revealed how this noise functions to enable a variety of cellular functions, from probabilistic differentiation to time-based regulation. Honors include the HFSP Nakasone Award, MacArthur Fellowship, Presidential Early Career Award, Allen Distinguished Investigator Award, Sackler Prize in Biophysics, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The lab website: https://www.elowitz.caltech.edu/
For details of his research and recent publication, please visit HERE
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