Synthetic biology promises to revolutionize biotechnology by providing the means to reengineer and reprogram cellular regulatory mechanisms. However, synthetic gene circuits are often unreliable, as changes to environmental conditions can fundamentally alter a circuit’s behavior. This lack of robustness limits the utility of engineered gene circuits and hinders advances in synthetic biology. In this talk I will discuss some of the methods my lab has developed to both quantify and improve the robustness of synthetic gene circuits. These new tools have allowed us to engineer newer, more reliable synthetic components – including hybrid promoters, transcriptional logic gates, and temperature compensating oscillators.
About Dr. Bennett:
Dr. Bennett’s research generally spans the boundary between experimental and theoretical molecular systems biology. He is particularly interested in the dynamics of gene regulation - from small-scale interactions such as transcription and translation, to the large-scale dynamics of gene regulatory networks. Dr. Bennett uses a hybrid experimental and computational approach to uncover the underlying design principles governing native gene networks and to use these concepts to design novel synthetic circuits. The ultimate goal of synthetic biology is the creation of practical, engineered genetic circuits for medical and industrial applications. Critical to this goal is the elucidation of the fundamental mechanisms that govern gene regulation at all levels. To this end, his work has focused on the kinetic properties of both synthetic networks, such as gene oscillators, and native regulatory networks, such as the galactose utilization pathway in S. cerevisiae.