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 | 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 >

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 >

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 >

Viruses turn out to be new apps of biology
The Economic Times | 6.25.2012

Berkeley researchers are among many advancing synthetic biology, including a South Bay scientist who see infinite possibilities for us to create new living systems. From his point of view, viruses are chemical codes that add features to the organisms that they infect -- features that can be engineered for positive effects, not negative. More >

Pilot program to bolster biophysical sciences’ innovation pipeline
UC Berkeley NewsCenter | 3.26.2012

UC Berkeley is launching the Bakar Fellows Program, a pilot program to help early-career faculty commercialize innovative research discoveries and bolster ongoing campus efforts to turn pioneering science into practical results. “Turning knowledge into real-world solutions is an important component of the work that many of our outstanding researchers do every day,” says Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Research Graham Fleming. “This program directs support toward faculty who are poised to make important discoveries early on in their career.” More >

A Shiny New Tool for Imaging Biomolecules
Berkeley Lab News Center | 3.23.2012

The ability to better understand cellular communication by observing signaling spatial patterns in the immune and other cellular systems  would be a critical tool in the fight against disorders that lead to a broad range of health problems, including cancer. Such a tool is now at hand, thanks to a scientific team led by SBI and LBNL scientist Jay Groves, which has developed a technique for lacing artificial lipid membranes with billions of gold “bowtie” nanoantennas that can boost dramatically the intensity of an optical signal from a protein passing through a plasmonic “hot-spot." More >

Viral Building Blocks Mimic Cornea and Bone Tissue
Urban Times | 3.7.2011

Synthetic biologists led by Professor Seung-Wuk Lee have produced a viral film that mimics the structure of collagen fibrils - materials resembling skin and bone. More>

Shake It Up, Baby: Rock stars of biofuels unveil their latest hits
Biofuels Digest | 3.1.12

Part 1 of a three-part series on hot new routes to advanced biofuels and chemicals is called "I Want a New Bug." It looks at the formation of Lygos, the first spin-out company from JBEI, and the advances from the Jay Keasling lab to produce biofuels and renewable chemicals directly from sugar and cellulose, without using an enzymatic process. (Don't miss Part 2 of the series, if only for the subtitle: “Chain, Chain, Chain – Chain of Fuels.") More>


Professors' innovations benefit society, economy
UC Berkeley NewsCenter | 2.1.2012

SBI faculty Richard Mathies and Jay Keasling are examples of the many UC Berkeley researchers whose discoveries and the companies created to manufacture them are spurring the U.S. and California economies and saving lives. More >

Clearing a potential road block to bisabolane
Berkeley Lab News Center | 1.9.2012

SBI bioengineers Paul Adams and Jay Keasling, leading a team at JBEI, have solved the protein crystal structure of an enzyme in the Grand fir (Abies grandis) that synthesizes bisabolene, the enzyme precursor to bisabolane, a chemical compound found in plants that can be used as an alternative to diesel fuel. When engineered into microbes, this enzyme has inhibited their conversion of simple sugars into bisabolene. Understanding its structure, Adams says, "should make it possible to design changes in the enzyme that will enable microbes to make bisabolene faster.” More >

SBI faculty chart future of synthetic biology
Institute for Emerging Ethics & Technology | 1.6.2012

Four UC Berkeley scientists were cited in this overview of the field of synthetic biology at the Institute for Emerging Ethics & Technology. The article profiles research by Adam Arkin, Michelle Chang, John Dueber, and Cheryl Kerfeld, presented at the December 14, 2011 LabLinks: Synthetic Biology conference. The conference, sponsored at UC San Francisco by Cell Press, focused on the overall status and issues of the industry. More >

Berkeley hosts advanced manufacturing brainstorm
UC Berkeley NewsCenter | 12.6.2011

UC Berkeley was host this week to the western regional meeting of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a national initiative launched by President Obama in June to re-assert U.S. leadership in advanced manufacturing, particularly in emerging technologies with great potential, like synthetic biology. More >

E. Coli Bacteria Engineered to Eat Switchgrass and Make Transportation Fuels
Lawrence Berkeley Lab | 11.29.2011

Synthetic biology researchers have engineered the first strains of E. coli bacteria that can digest switchgrass biomass and synthesize its sugars for transportation fuels without  help from enzyme additives. This is a milestone on the road to developing advanced biofuels that can replace gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels with a domestically-produced clean, green, renewable alternative. "This work shows that we can reduce one of the most expensive parts of the biofuel production process," says research leader and SBI faculty member Jay Keasling. More >

Bid to program new life forms with 'operating system' for cells
CNN Tech | 11.18.2011

Scientists at the University of Nottingham, England, will attempt to design an "operating system" for a living biological cell as part of a five-year research project. It is an audacious and ambitious initiative, but it could result in a major breakthrough for synthetic biology. Experts in the field are watching the effort. On the possible road to success, said SBI's J. Christopher Anderson, professor of bioengineering at UC Berkeley, "There are theory gaps. There are tools gaps. There are so many other bottlenecks. But it could be an important and difficult piece of the puzzle." More >

First of Its Kind Gene Map of Sulfate-reducing Bacterium
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab | 11.09.2011

Desulfovibrio vulgaris, a sulfate-reducing bacterium with the unique ability to metabolize metals, is a boon to toxic waste cleanup and a curse to oil drilling and storage. Understanding how it responds to environmental changes is key for managing its use. In Genone Biology, SBI Director Adam Arkin and other researchers provide the first ever map of the genes that determine how this bacterium interacts with its surrounding environment. More >

Malaria research bringing hope to Sierra Leone
ABC7 News | 11.9.11 video icon

Malaria is is killer in much of Africa, with the disease especially deadly for young children. But help could soon be on the way from the Bay Area. UC Berkeley and SBI researcher Jay Keasling and his team have developed a synthetic form of the most commonly used malaria drug, artemisinin. Keasling believes the price could eventually drop from several dollars a dose to about 25 cents. It's expected to be widely available early next year. More  video icon >

Chancellor Birgeneau attends biotech and synthetic biology forum in China
UC Berkeley NewsCenter | 11.08.2011

Key UC Berkeley faculty members will discuss their work at the Berkeley Shanghai Biotech Forum on Saturday, November 12. The biotech forum covers topics such as investments, risk, intellectual property, health care, synthetic biology and the global market for exoskeletons. More >

Researchers turn viruses into molecular Legos
UC Berkeley NewsCenter | 10.19.2011

UC Berkeley researchers, led by SBI’s Seung-Wuk Lee, associate professor of bioengineering, have turned a benign virus into an engineering tool for assembling structures that mimic collagen, one of the most important structural proteins in nature. The process they developed could eventually be used to manufacture materials with tunable optical, biomedical and mechanical properties. The work is described in the Oct. 20 issue of the journal Nature. More >

Synthetic Biology Delivers Cool Tools, but New Therapeutics Are a Ways Off
GEN: Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News | 10.17.2011

What does it take to transform a microbe normally found in the intestinal tract into a cancer-killing machine? These and other questions about the applicability of synthetic biology abound.... SBI's J. Christopher Anderson, assistant professor of bioengineering at Berkeley, is developing bacteria as cancer-killing therapeutics. He doesn’t disagree that the practical realization of these cancer-bomb bacteria may be a ways off. “We have, thus far, made four fully functional devices. This is definitely a project at the leading edge of what you can do with genetic engineering tools today." More >

Scientists identify new microbe-produced advanced biofuel as an alternative to diesel fuel
Berkeley Lab News Center | 9.27.2011

Using the tools of synthetic biology, JBEI researchers have engineered a potential new advanced biofuel that could replace today’s standard fuel for diesel engines but would be clean, green, renewable and produced in the United States. The research team engineered strains of two microbes, a bacteria and a yeast, to produce a precursor to bisabolane, a member of the terpene class of chemical compounds that are found in plants and used in fragrances and flavorings. More >

Berkeley Lab Opens Advanced Biofuels Facility
Berkeley Lab News Center | 8.13.2011

The ailing United States’ economy would receive a much needed boost with the commercial development of a domestic source of transportation fuel – especially if that fuel were to be clean, green and renewable, and could replace gasoline on a gallon-for gallon basis in today’s engines and infrastructures. Helping to make that dream come true is the mission of the Advanced Biofuels Process Demonstration Unit (ABPDU), which officially opened for business by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More >

"A Bio-Based Future" is third collaboration with Danish scientists

More  than 200 scientists gathered in on the UC Berkeley campus from Aug. 29-31, 2011, for the third Denmark-California workshop on synthetic biology, consolidating a partnership in this promising area of research. The partnership focuses on reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and strengthening the development of sustainable production and personalized medicine. More >

Team including SBI leaders discovers heat-loving microbe with biofuel potential
MSNBC | 7.5.2011

A record-breaking microbe that thrives while munching plant material at near boiling temperatures has been discovered in a Nevada hot spring. Scientists are eyeing the microbe's enzyme responsible for breaking down cellulose — called a cellulase — as a potential workhouse in the production of biofuels and other industrial processes. “It is interesting to know that such cellulases are out there," said SBI Co-Director Douglas Clark. "This cellulase might also serve as a good starting point to be engineered to work at a lower temperature but maintain the high stability that it has naturally evolved to work at such high temperatures." More >

SBI's Keasling sees E.coli spawning biofuel in five years
Reuters |6.28.2011

The bacteria behind food poisoning worldwide, the mighty E.coli, could be turned into a commercially available biofuel in five years, UC Berkeley professor Jay Keasling told technology industry and government leaders. Several companies are working on the technology, which has been proven in laboratories but is not yet yielding enough fuel to be commercially viable. More >

Life hackers seek new tools
Nature News | 6.14.2011

A new generation of synthetic biologists are charting the course of the field....SBI Director Adam Arkin, professor of bioengineering at UC Berkeley, has pursued the idea that circuits can be made more reliable by basing parts on existing cellular components that already accomplish a certain function in the cell. Such 'mother parts' could be tweaked slightly to yield 'families' of parts with similar features that could carry out their functions independently and efficiently. In April, the team published a proof of concept for this approach. 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. 


Report published on Berkeley-DOD workshop  | Fall 2011

Thought leaders from government, industry, and academia met at UC Berkeley in April 2011 to discuss “Future Directions in Engineering Biology,” a workshop organized by Berkeley’s Department of Bioengineering and sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering within the Department of Defense (DOD/ASD R&E). The report chronicles many new directions in synthetic biology. Download the report >

UC Berkeley launches SBI, with Agilent as first Industry Member | 4.19.2011

The UC Berkeley Synthetic Biology Institute (SBI), with Agilent Technologies as its first Industry Member, aims to create “an industrial revolution in biological engineering.” SBI is advancing efforts to engineer cells and biological systems in ways that promise to transform technology in health and medicine, energy, the environment, new materials, and a host of other critical arenas. Read more >

SBI Newsletter  | November 2011

Read the latest newsletter from SBI. Join the mailing list >

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