Evolution is the most advanced innovation machine. We are interested to learn from biological systems to create new paradigms in science and medicine. Countless observations from nature have inspired us with new technologies. The super slipping properties from carnivorous plants inspired the invention of surfaces with ultralow friction (1)⁠; bats flying, modern self-adjustable wings (2, 3)⁠; and bacterial anti-viral defensive mechanisms (CRISPR-cas) brought us to the highest end genome editing tools (4, 5). Emergent consequences of reinventing biology have already started to reach society. For example, engineered human immune T cells (CAR-T) cure cancers with outstanding performance (6)⁠. Biological technology will have a growing influence in our lives.

Our group aims to leverage synthetic biology and gene editing to generate technologies with therapeutic potential. We have lines of research in directed evolution, microbiome engineering, and precise tools for gene therapy.

Engineering biological components enables us to explore unique opportunities, to learn biology by rebuilding biology, and to provide solutions to current challenges. Biological systems are uniquely precise and specific. I expect that the interface between systems observation and modeling, with synthetic biology will grow in importance, and translate into an extremely high impact in society.

References

1.   T.-S. Wong et al., Bioinspired self-repairing slippery surfaces with pressure-stable omniphobicity. Nature. 477, 443–7 (2011).

2.   V. Gill, Flying robots: Nature inspires next generation design. BBC News (2014), (available at http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-27496737).

3.   D. Lentink, Biomimetics: Flying like a fly. Nature. 498, 306–7 (2013).

4.   P. Mali et al., RNA-guided human genome engineering via Cas9. Science. 339, 823–6 (2013).

5.   L. Cong et al., Multiplex genome engineering using CRISPR/Cas systems. Science. 339, 819–23 (2013).

6.   S. L. Maude, E. J. Shpall, S. A. Grupp, Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy for ALL. Hematology Am. Soc. Hematol. Educ. Program. 2014, 559–64 (2014).