The Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC) is a multi-institution research effort to lay the foundation for the emerging field of synthetic biology. SynBERC’s vision is to catalyze biology as an engineering discipline by developing the foundational understanding and technologies to allow researchers to design and build standardized, integrated biological systems to accomplish many particular tasks.
The Yeast Synthetic Biology Workshop took place on Saturday October 16, 2010 at UC San Francisco's Genentech Hall. Generously supported by Life Technologies, this one-day workshop was in response to a growing recognition that yeast is re-emerging as an important workhorse system in synthetic biology research-development-production processes, in particular for chemical production and biofuels applications.
In the August 2009 edition of Nature Biotechnology, SynBERC researcher John Dueber and company show how they engineered synthetic protein scaffolds to recruit metabolic enzymes in a manner that greatly improves production of an end-product while lowering the overall metabolic load on the chassis organism. The principle behind such metabolic pipelines is simple: Assemble enzyme complexes so that active sites are close together in order to prevent loss of intermediates and competition from other pathways.
On the path toward sophisticated cellular computation, synthetic biologists are constantly seeking better ways to program logic into cells. One way to do this is using DNA segments known as inversion recombination elements. In essence, these inversion elements act like binary switches that can write ones and zeroes directly into DNA. In the July 30, 2008, issue of PLOS, SynBERC researchers Timothy Ham, Sung Kuk Lee, Jay Keasling and Adam Arkin demonstrate how engineers can combine two or more such elements together to design complex logical systems in DNA.
A central tenet of synthetic biology is that by “black-boxing” the complexity of biology, engineers will ultimately be able to manufacture many easy-to-use genetic devices that function as expected. SynBERC researchers reported a major step towards to this goal by publishing the first formalized datasheet for a standard biological device, as well as a generic process for developing many such devices and their accompanying datasheets.
In the March 14 2008 issue of Science, a team of UC San Francisco scientists led by SynBERC Deputy Director Wendell Lim show how a toolkit of modular molecular components and circuit boards can be used to engineer a wide variety of biochemical circuits in living cells, much as the old Heathkit electronic kits of the 1950s enabled students and hobbyists to assemble modular electronic parts into working radios and computers.
Leader: J. Christopher Anderson
The goal of this thrust is to develop a limited number of chassis that should serve a wide range of activities (testbeds). More specifically, we are working toward the following goals:
Leader: Christopher Voigt
Leader: Tanja Kortemme
The most basic unit in the design of synthetic biological systems are parts – pieces of DNA, RNA, or protein that encode and/or can carry out a defined biological function(s) – binding to another molecule or catalyzing a reaction. Parts can be assembled in combination to make devices that carry out more complex functions. Thus, a core thrust of SynBERC is the design and manipulation of standard biological parts. Over the last year, researchers in the Parts Thrust have focused on: