WORKSHOP: Design Principles for Engineering Biology


November (10) 11-12, 2015
Tysons Corner, VA (DC Metro)
Talk Video
Final Report


Jay D. Keasling, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Bioengineering,
University of California, Berkeley
Ken A. Dill, Laufer Center for Physical & Quantitative Biology, Stony Brook University
Eberhard Voit, Laboratory for Biological Systems Analysis, Georgia Institute of Technology
Erel Levine, Department of Physics, Harvard University

Meeting Synopsis

Engineering of biology has been facilitated by the toolbox developed by Synthetic Biology that attempts through engineering principles to reduce genetics into DNA “parts” and understand how they can be combined to build desired functions in living cells. The challenge is now how to efficiently assemble these parts into robust, useful constructs. A convergence of fundamental principles from physics, chemistry, biology and engineering provides increasingly a quantitative basis for the understanding of biology to enable a rational design of biological systems and even to predict the outcome of evolution. To accelerate the translation of synthetic biology into useful processes the workshop will attempt to identify theoretical approaches and design principles that could further contribute to advancing the understanding of biology and to identify the fundamental chemical and physical principles that can provide guidance in the engineering of complex biological systems.

This workshop will aim to enable conversations/collaborations among the research communities who have not been typically working together to ask questions such as:

  • What are the principles of protein folding: Improvements in the ability to rapidly design enzymes with respect to catalytic activity and specific activity and engineer their biophysical and catalytic properties would significantly shorten the time to develop useful enzymes
  • What are the principles determining the properties of a metabolic and/or signaling network: A better understanding of the fundamental science and enabling technologies of reaction networks would promote the rapid and efficient development of organismal chassis and pathways and enable expanding the palette of domesticated microbial and cell-free platforms for biomanufacturing.
  • How do metabolic networks evolve and what are the driving forces of evolution: The design, creation, and cultivation of robust strains that remain genetically stable and retain performance stability over time in the presence of diverse feedstocks and products will contribute to more productive processes.
  • What are the modeling approaches for complex biological systems: The development of predictive modeling tools would accelerate the development of new products and processes. What modeling tools exist for synthetic organisms and are they sufficient for situations where organisms produced using synthetic biology are released into the environment?
  • What are the educational needs for engineering biology: The appropriate training of the next generation of scientists and engineers will be critical for the efficient translation of fundamental discoveries in biology into useful technologies using synthetic biology tools. Therefore, it will be useful to re-evaluate the specific skillset required of future scientists and engineers to take advantage of the convergence of disciplines in this area.