Title: Engineering microbes to grow functional materials to design — Speaker: Tom Ellis, Associate Professor and Group Leader, Centre for Synthetic Biology and Department of Bio-engineering, Imperial College, London,UK — Abstract: Synthetic biology applies the rules of engineering to the redesign and resynthesis of living cells. Over the past decade it has given us cells that can see, smell, count and calculate, and cells engineered to produce fuels, drugs, fragrances and other chemicals and proteins.Using microbial engineering, we have now taken on the next challenge for synthetic biology, the production of new biomaterials from communities of engineered cells. By pairing microbes proficient in protein production with others specialised in cellulose production, we have begun to produce material layers with inbuilt detection and catalytic properties, and are now working towards novel biological composites whose properties can be tuned as desired. The aim is to develop DNA programs that can define the growth, pattern and properties of biological materials, so that a myriad of different materials could made on demand from just a few microbes and some basic resources.
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