The Synthetic Biology Institute at UC Berkeley (SBI)

is working to make the engineering of new complex function in cells vastly more efficient, reliable, predictable, and safe. Its breakthroughs will speed the development of biologically engineered solutions to pressing global problems related to health, materials, energy, environment, and security.
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Recent News

SBI in the News

Arkin receives Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award
LBNL | 4.16.14 

SBI Director Adam Arkin has been named one of six recipients of the 2013 Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The E.O. Lawrence Award, the Department of Energy (DOE)’s highest scientific honor, is recognizing Arkin “for his work advancing biological and environmental sciences." More >

Tullman-Ercek engineers bacteria that pump out butanol
C&EN | 9.17.2013

CBE professor Danielle Tullman-Ercek has used directed evolution to develop a strain of E. Coli that can pump out butanol, increasing its potential as a biofuel factory. More >

Science magazine touts breakthrough from Michelle Chang lab
Science | 9.6.2013

Berkeley chemist Michelle Chang and co-workers engineered E. coli bacteria to make fluorine-containing compounds that can serve as the starting point for powerful new therapeutics. More >

Expressly unfit for the laboratory
LBNL | 6.19.2013

A new study by Adam Arkin and  his colleagues challenges the orthodoxy of microbiology, which holds  that in response to environmental changes, bacterial genes will boost  production of needed proteins and decrease production of those that  aren’t. The study found that for bacteria in the laboratory there was  little evidence of adaptive genetic response. More >

SBI's Doug Clark name dean of UC Berkeley's College of Chemistry
College of Chemistry News | 5.9.13

SBI co-director Douglas S. Clark, a pioneering researcher in the field of biochemical engineering, has been named dean of UC Berkeley's College of Chemistry, effective July 1, 2013, pending formal approval by the UC Regents. Clark, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, succeeds Richard A. Mathies, who is also an SBI faculty member. More>

Synthetic biologists standardize genetic parts to engineer cells
SynBERC| 3.12.2013

A team of scientists has produced high-quality standardized biological parts that can be mixed and matched by biotech researchers creating new drugs, fuels or chemicals. The DNA sequences that encode all the parts are free and available online. The project, detailed in three research papers, is the work of researchers at the International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology (BIOFAB), a collaboration led by UC Berkeley and Stanford University and funded by the National Science Foundation. More>

Scientists engineer bacterial live wires
R&D Magazine Online | 2.28.2013

Just like electronics, living cells use electrons for energy and information transfer, but living cells cannot "speak" to our technological world. Important new advances in understanding cellular-electrode communication have been made by a team led by SBI's Caroline Ajo-Franklin, a synthetic biologist at LBNL. More>

Synthetic biology: Stanford, UC Berkeley engineering a new frontier
Silicon Valley Mercury News.com | 2.17.2013

One gene at a time, elite teams of Bay Area synthetic biologists are striving to design and build organisms unlike anything made by Mother Nature. Synthetic biology works because biological creatures are, in essence, programmable manufacturing systems. The DNA instruction manual buried inside every cell -- its software, in a sense -- can be replaced with a man-made version, giving us the ability to tell it what to make. More>

Cheap and easy technique to snip DNA could revolutionize gene therapy
UC Berkeley NewsCenter | 1.7.2013

A simple, precise and inexpensive method for cutting DNA to insert genes into human cells could transform genetic medicine, making routine what now are expensive, complicated and rare procedures for replacing defective genes in order to fix genetic disease or even cure AIDS. SBI's Jennifer Doudna, one of two UC Berkeley professors who discovered the new method, said it is will remove a huge bottleneck in both research and the development of human therapeutics. More>

How to Code a Life
BuzzFeed | 11.19.2012

Synthetic biology, the newer, cooler branch of genetic engineering, still struggles in one key area where the software industry excels: open access to information. A more open-source model within synthetic biology could expedite the experimentation process, allowing researchers to focus on the engineering aspects and not time-consuming DNA synthesis. More >

A Better Route to Xylan
LBNL News Center | 11.12.2012

After cellulose, xylan is the most abundant biomass material on Earth, representing an enormous potential source of stored solar energy for the production of advance biofuels. A major roadblock, however, has been extracting xylan from plant cell walls. Researchers with the Joint BioEnergy Institute -- including SBI's Henrik Scheller -- taken a significant step toward removing this roadblock. More>

Training Your Robot the PaR-PaR Way
LBNL News Center | 10.23.2012

Teaching a robot a new trick is a challenge. For researchers in the biological sciences, however, the future training of robots has been made much easier thanks to a new program called “PaR-PaR.” SBI's Nathan Hillson, a biochemist at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, led the development of PaR-PaR, which stands for Programming a Robot. More>

Berkeley iGEM Team Wins Regional Jamboree on Its Way to World Championship
QB3 Berkeley News | 10.4.2012

The UC Berkeley team for the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) -- the premiere undergraduate synthetic biology competition -- won first place and the best presentation award at the Americas West Regional Jamboree, ensuring their participation at the World Championships at MIT in November. SBI is among the team's supporters. More>

New Tool for Making Genetic Engineering of Microbial Circuits Reliably Predictable
Science Daily | 10.8.12

For synthetic biology to reach its promise, the design and construction of biological systems must be as predictable as the assembly of computer hardware. An important step has been taken SBI director Adam Arkin and a team of researchers who have developed an "adaptor" that makes the genetic engineering of microbial components easier and more predictable by converting regulators of translation into regulators of transcription. More>

JBEI Startup to Speed Up Biotech Industry
Berkeley Lab News Center | 10.1.2012

Sequencing, splicing and expressing DNA may seem to be the quintessence of cutting-edge science, but the actual process can be tedious and labor-intensive. SBI and Berkeley Lab scientist Nathan Hillson and two partners aim to make genetic engineering cheaper and faster through a startup that is building on j5 software for DNA construction. "It's like AutoCAD for biology," says one partner. More >

SBI's Jay Keasling wins Heinz Award
San Francisco Chronicle | 9.12.12

One of four $250,000 Heinz Awards for 2012 has been awarded to Jay Keasling for his work in engineering a synthetic form of the malaria drug artemisinin. More >

Synthetic Biology Aims To Turn Cells Into Chemists
International Business Times | 8.25.2012

Synthetic biologists see a future in which specially designed DNA sequences, proteins and cells will do the work of creating compounds, elements and biological materials, helping us treat disease -- and possibly even establish colonies on other planets. More >

Coming Events

SynBio Supergroup

Next meeting:

Wednesday, Sept 11th in 115 EBB

Avi Flamholz
Molecular & Cell Biology
"Glycolytic strategy as a tradeoff between energy yield and protein cost".

Pizza, beer and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided starting at 5:30pm, and the talk will promptly begin at 6:00pm.

Sponsored by the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC), and the Synthetic Biology Institute (SBI).

Science at the Theater - September 23, 2013
7:00 - 9:00 PM
Berkeley Repertory Theater 

New Biology: New World?

SBI's Adam Arkin speaks with synthetic biologist Jay Keasling and other leading researchers about the coming new era of biology. Learn more at Friends of Berkeley Lab. 


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