June 9, 2017

James Collins To Keynote At SynBioBeta SF 2017

James Collins

There’s a new addition to the list of reasons why you can’t miss SynBioBeta SF 2017, this coming October: synthetic and systems biology pioneer Jim Collins will be keynoting at the event.

Collins is Termeer Professor of Bioengineering in the Department of Biological Engineering and Institute for Medical Engineering & Science at MIT, as well as one of the cofounders of Synlogic, Sample6 and EnBiotix, among other biotech companies. He is also affiliated with the Broad Institute and the Wyss Institute. He is most recognized by the work he started in 2000 creating a toggle switch in E. coli, generating a two-gene circuit that could change between two states, with the aim of exploring the creation of purpose-built bacteria that could work as novel therapeutics.

Besides the original toggle switch, Professor Collins and his team have developed biological systems such as RNA switches, genetic counters, programmable cells, tunable mammalian genetic switches, and engineered bacteriophages among other impressive creations furthering enabling programming life and marrying biology and engineering. In parallel with these biological computer functions and devices, Collins has worked extensively in developing nonlinear network biology approaches to understand and improve antibiotic action by targeting bacterial defense mechanisms and the emergence of antibiotic resistance. His team discovered that all classes of bactericidal antibiotics have something in common: they induce a certain type of oxidative damage, and so targeting bacterial systems that remediate this damage can increase the effectiveness of all major classes of antibiotics exponentially. All this by effectively reverse engineering endogenous gene regulatory networks, and finding clear applications for the insights obtained. Because Collins’ work doesn’t stop in academia, his findings and inventions have been patented and licensed by over 25 companies spanning biotech research to pharma and medical devices.

Since sometimes microbial level isn’t big enough, Collins also happens to also be responsible for the development of a new field within the area of medical devices: motor and balance control sensory enhancing devices based on subsensory mechanical noises.  This development is exemplified surprisingly in vibrating insoles capable of addressing complications in patients with stroke and diabetic neuropathy among other ailments.

Professor Collins’ work has garnered him multiple awards and recognitions, including a Rhodes Scholarship, a MacArthur “Genius” Award, an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, a Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award, as well as several teaching awards. On top of that, he serves as an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and is also a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

So if you’re interested in either systems biology, synthetic biology, or industrial applications ranging from medical devices to zika rapid testing (and if you’re reading this, why wouldn’t you be?) then don’t miss out on James Collins’ keynote at SynBioBeta SF 2017, October 3rd-5th.


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