Cellular Mechanism of Disease, Engineering, Microbiology, Molecular Biology
Catalysis – Metabolic Engineering Cells are capable of exquisite catalysis. Taking a wide variety of raw materials, cells are capable of synthesizing alkanes, sophisticated small molecules, and high information content polymers (DNA, RNA, protein) that exist in complex three-dimensional structures. We use these capabilities to produce small molecule drugs, protein therapeutics, and fuels from very cheap, renewable raw materials. This involves Introducing new enzymes to perform the chemical reactions we desire and developing control strategies to balance native metabolic pathways with foreign enzymes to maximize product yield.These novel metabolic pathways can be utilized to synthesize precursors and final drugs for HIV and Tuberculosis, where complex steriochemisty and low yields have rendered traditionally produced therapies too expensive for broad use in resource-poor areas. Sensing – Signaling Engineering Microbes must accurately sense the environment around it to protect itself from harm and capitalize on nutrient opportunities. Microbial sensing is highly effective because it is specific and sensitive and produce a desired cellular response in a timely manner.We use these capabilities to engineer cells that can detect new environmental cues. We focus on the detection of biomarkers that currently do not have effective low-cost diagnostics. By engineering cells that can detect these biomarkers, cell-based diagnostic devices could perform critical functions in resource-poor settings such as detect the presence of harmful agents in drinking water.