Engineering Biology
Host Engineering Goal:

On-demand production of single-cell hosts capable of natural and non-natural biochemistry.

Current State-of-the-Art

Current tools and technologies for on-demand production of organisms are limited by the number and scope of transformation capabilities, continuous and rapid production capability, and the lack of secure public repositories for academics and industry containing the necessary organismal design and characterization information. Today, we have a number of host microbes for which we have a satisfactory, though not extensive, understanding of their metabolism and sufficient genetic tools that we can use for reliable engineering. Engineering of plant and animal cells is expanding, especially given particular applications (e.g., CAR-T cell engineering), but still faces significant bottlenecks.

Breakthrough Capabilities & Milestones

Ability to grow any host, anytime, in a controlled and regulated setting.

Routine domestication of non-model organisms through DNA delivery and genetic modification.

For related reading, please see Gene Editing, Synthesis, and Assembly.

Ability to build and control small molecule biosynthesis inside cells by design or through evolution.

Spatial control over, or organization of, metabolic pathways in cells and construction of unnatural organelles.

Production and secretion of any protein with the desired glycosylation or other post-translational modifications.7National Research Council (US) Committee on Assessing the Importance and Impact of Glycomics and Glycosciences. (2012). Transforming glycoscience: A roadmap for the future. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US). View publication.


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  2. Venayak, N., von Kamp, A., Klamt, S., & Mahadevan, R. (2018). MoVE identifies metabolic valves to switch between phenotypic states. Nature Communications, 9(1), 5332. View publication.
  3. Weinhandl, K., Winkler, M., Glieder, A., & Camattari, A. (2014). Carbon source dependent promoters in yeasts. Microbial Cell Factories, 13, 5. View publication.; Hsiao, V., Cheng, A., & Murray, R. M. (2016). Design and application of stationary phase combinatorial promoters (SEED 2016 Technical Report). Retrieved from MurrayWiki.
  4. DeLoache, W. C., Russ, Z. N., & Dueber, J. E. (2016). Towards repurposing the yeast peroxisome for compartmentalizing heterologous metabolic pathways. Nature Communications, 7, 11152. View publication.
  5. Jakobson, C. M., Chen, Y., Slininger, M. F., Valdivia, E., Kim, E. Y., & Tullman-Ercek, D. (2016). Tuning the catalytic activity of subcellular nanoreactors. Journal of Molecular Biology, 428(15), 2989–2996. View publication.
  6. Kim, E. Y., & Tullman-Ercek, D. (2014). A rapid flow cytometry assay for the relative quantification of protein encapsulation into bacterial microcompartments. Biotechnology Journal, 9(3), 348–354. View publication.
  7. National Research Council (US) Committee on Assessing the Importance and Impact of Glycomics and Glycosciences. (2012). Transforming glycoscience: A roadmap for the future. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US). View publication.
  8. Sethuraman, N., & Stadheim, T. A. (2006). Challenges in therapeutic glycoprotein production. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 17(4), 341–346. View publication.
Last updated: June 19, 2019 Back