Synthetic Biology and Molecular Programming

Programmable biomolecular systems will impact our lives just as dramatically as programmable electronics did. Programmed molecular self-assembly will be used for the massively parallel construction of nanoscale devices. "Smart drugs" that target drug activity to disease cells and activate in response to specific molecular clues will have minimal side effects and improve therapeutic outcomes. Such tasks require molecular systems that operate autonomously in complex environments, sensing and responding to molecular events.

To enable this "molecular programming revolution" we will have to develop the right computational models that allow us to describe and specify molecular behaviors. How can we embed information in molecules so that they form a specific shape? How can we tell a chemical system to count? What kind of computation is possible given a set of molecules and interactions? In order to answer such questions we will need to adapt concepts such as programming languages or compilers to physical substrates that are very different from the electronic devices with which we are familiar.

In our research we combine biology experiments with computational modeling. We are building novel regulatory networks both in the cell and the test tube. Our goal is to build control circuits for biological systems and to develop new tools for doing biology.

References:

  1. G. Seelig, D. Soloveichik, D. Zhang, E. Winfree, "Enzyme-free nucleic acid logic circuits", Science, vol. 314 (2006) 1585-8. Pubmed 17158324.
  2. G. Seelig, B. Yurke, E. Winfree, "Catalyzed relaxation of a metastable DNA fuel", J. Am. Chem. Soc., vol. 128 (2006) 12211-20. Pubmed 16967972.
  3. D. Soloveichik, G. Seelig, E. Winfree, "DNA as a universal substrate for chemical kinetics", Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., vol. 107 (2010) 5393-8. Pubmed 20203007.