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Analog Synthetic Biology and Systems Biology

Circuits in cell biology and circuits in electronics may be viewed as being highly similar with biology using molecules, ions, proteins, and DNA rather than electrons and transistors. This project exploits the astoundingly detailed similarity between the equations of chemistry and the equations of subthreshold analog electronics  to attempt to create large-scale nonlinear dynamical systems […]

Genetic Programming

Our goal is to create a programming language for living cells that is similar to languages used to program computers and robots. This requires the development of a high-level language that allows a programmer to describe a desired function and computational methods that convert this language into a linear DNA sequence. The sequence is then […]


From wood to silk, we still obtain many materials from natural sources. In harvesting these materials, we rely on global abundances or the ability to be farmed. Enzyme-directed bio-mineralization can produce nanoparticles with unique structural and functional properties that are difficult to obtain by chemical routes. These have applications in a broad range of technologies, […]

Genetic Circuits

To build genetic programs, circuits need to be encoded in DNA. These so-called genetic circuits use biochemical interactions to implement functions that are analogous to electronic circuits, such as logic gates and oscillators. We are developing genetic circuits that encode new functions as well as methods to optimize their performance features. A significant challenge is […]

DNA Synthesis and Assembly

Genetic programming is possible because of advances in the synthesis and construction of DNA. Companies dedicated to DNA synthesis are now able to chemically build sequences to order that are hundreds of thousands of bases long with every base specified. The center is developing methods to use microfluidics to synthesize DNA and proteins in parallel. […]


Microbial chemical factories provide a renewable pathway to pharmaceuticals, specialty, and commodity chemicals. A large part of constructing a pathway to a desired chemical is assembling the correct enzymes that function together to convert a metabolite into a desired chemical. Aiding the process of discovery are the DNA sequence databases that now contain more than […]

Genome Design

A vision of the center is to be able to design and program complete genomes. Recently, work out of the Venter Institute demonstrated that it is possible to reconstruct a complete bacterial genome using chemical DNA synthesis, transplant it into a host chassis, and have the new genome “boot up.” The Church lab at Harvard […]


Biological sensing and circuitry enables agricultural organisms to see and respond to their environment. “Smart” plants could be programmed to identify and respond to multiple threats, such as pathogens, toxins, desiccation, and nutrient availability. Microbes in the rhizome associate with plants and could be engineered to implement similar functions. Finally, the engineering of new chasses […]

Simplifying Genetics

Natural genomes are shaped by evolution, a process of serendipity that produces complex and highly redundant genetic systems. Characterizing such a system often has the feel of peeling an onion, where there are endless layers of complex regulation. We are applying principles from synthetic biology to rebuild cellular functions from the bottom up. Natural regulation […]