Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ron Weiss is Professor in the Department of Biological Engineering and in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is the Director of the Synthetic Biology Center at MIT. Professor Weiss is one of the pioneers of synthetic biology. He has been engaged in synthetic biology research since 1996 when he was
a graduate student at MIT and where he helped set up a wet-lab in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department. After completion of his PhD, Weiss joined the faculty at Princeton University, and then returned to MIT in 2009 to take on a faculty position in the Department of Biological Engineering and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The research pursued by Weiss since those early days has placed him in a position of leadership in the field, as evidenced both by publications from his lab as well as a variety of awards and other forms of recognition. He pursued several aspects of synthetic biology, including synthesis of gene networks engineered to perform in vivo analog and digital logic computation. The Weiss lab also published seminal papers in synthetic biology focused on programming cell aggregates to perform coordinated tasks using engineered cell-cell communication with chemical diffusion mechanisms such as quorum sensing. Several of these manuscripts were featured in a recent Nature special collection of a select number of synthetic biology papers reflecting on the first 10 years of synthetic biology. While work in the Weiss lab began mostly with prokaryotes, during the last 5 years a majority of the research in the lab shifted to mammalian synthetic biology. The lab focuses both on foundational research, e.g. creating general methods to improve our ability to engineer biological systems, as well as pursuing specific health related applications where synthetic biology provides unique capabilities.
Mammalian Synthetic Biology: Foundation and Therapeutic Applications
Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, UK
Alison Smith is Professor of Plant Biochemistry in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge, where she is currently Head of Department. Her research interests are focussed around the metabolism of plants, algae and bacteria, in particular of vitamins and cofactors, and more recently for compounds of commercial interest such as high-value pigments and plant natural products. Current projects include the role of vitamins in the interaction of algae with other microbes in the environment and the control of gene expression. She has pioneered the use of synthetic biology in algal biotechnology, including the use of modular cloning of standardised parts and workflows, and has used these to generate artificial regulatory circuits to control transgene expression. She is Director of the Algal Innovation Centre in Cambridge, a facility that allows pilot-scale testing of algal-based solutions to improve sustainability such as the use of algal cultivation for production of plant natural products, for vitamin-rich food ingredients and for waste valorisation.
Redesigning the Chlamydomonas chloroplast genome
Institute of Synthetic Biology and CEPLAS, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Germany
Matias Zurbriggen did his undergraduate studies in Biotechnology at the University of Rosario and IBR, Argentina followed by a joint PhD work on plant biotechnology together with the Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Research Leibniz-IPK, Gatersleben, Germany, graduating in 2009. After two years of postdoctoral work between the IBR, IPK and John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK, he moved to the University of Freiburg and BIOSS as an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellow to work on mammalian synthetic biology and optogenetics. He was appointed Assistant Professor and started his group working on mammalian and plant synthetic biology in 2012. He was awarded a full Professorship in Synthetic Biology at the University of Düsseldorf and the Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences (CEPLAS) in 2015. He is a member of the steering board of the Study Group Systems and Synthetic Biology of DECHEMA, and co-founder member of the Study Group Synthetic Biology at the German Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM) and of the German Synthetic Biology Think-tank. He is coordinator of the Research Area Synthetic and Reconstruction Biology at CEPLAS-Cluster of Excellence in Plant Sciences, advisor on synthetic biology at EFSA-European Food Safety Agency, editor of scientific journals and organizes conferences and symposia on synthetic biology and optogenetics.