2018 Synthetic Biology: Engineering, Evolution & Design (SEED) is coming to Arizona

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Synthetic Biology: Engineering, Evolution & Design (SEED) is an annual conference that has been hosted in different cities since 2014: Manhattan Beach, CA; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; and Vancouver, Canada. This year the rapidly growing, highly-visible meeting will take place in Scottsdale, AZ! SEED 2018 will focus on advances in science, technology, applications, and related investments in the field of synthetic biology. This year’s theme will be “synthetic biology at the leading edge of massive DNA synthesis, editing, and decoding.”

The Meeting Chairs are Karmella Haynes (ASU) and Ryan Gill (UC Boulder).

Keynote speakers will include Jim Collins (MIT) and Pam Ronald (UC Davis). The call for abstracts is open until March 7, 2018.

If you are interested in supporting the conference, please visit the webpage, SEED: Become a Sponsor or Exhibitor, for more information.


Research – bioRxiv Pre-print – Characterization of Diverse Homoserine Lactone Synthases in Escherichia coli

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Characterization of Diverse Homoserine Lactone Synthases in Escherichia coli
Daer R, Barrett CM, Melendez EL, Wu J, Tekel SJ, Xu J, Dennison B, Muller R, Haynes KA. (2018) bioRxiv. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/03/09/279349

The Haynes lab focuses on advanced chromosome engineering in human cells, but also provides opportunities for undergraduates to learn synthetic biology using simpler organisms like bacteria (E. coli). In this paper, the 2016 ASU International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) Competition team and their graduate advisors report their work to identify useful, new cell-cell communication components to use in engineered systems. Homoserine lactone (HSL) synthases appear as a wide variety of different forms in the bacterial kingdom, and produce various chemical signals that regulate genes in neighboring bacteria. When these are combined to build synthetic circuits in a common lab strain (E. coli), the signals are sometimes not produced as expected. Therefore, it is important to systematically characterize HSL synthases in context. The team also used experiments to identify the most effective way to neutralize unused HSLs in biological waste. The ten HSL synthases characterized in this paper were contributed to public collections for use by the scientific community.

Dr. Haynes: invited lecturer for Spring 2018 Bruce D. Nesbitt AA Cultural Center Event

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Dr. Haynes has been invited to give seminars on her research and career as a guest of the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Haynes will present lectures to students across campus, as well as students at a local high school who are interested in STEM fields and the Arts on Thursday, March 1 and Friday, March 2. Dr. Haynes will present her latest breakthroughs in protein engineering for cancer research and treatment on Friday, March 2. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/2035798196678529/.

Haynes lab undergad researcher Jiaqi Wu receives prestigous Bidstrup Fellowship

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Jiaqi Wu, a computer science major who is fascinated with computational biology and bioinformatics, has been awarded a prestigious Bidstrup Undergraduate Fellowship for academic year 2017 – 2018.  This award is a testament to the outstanding commitment to academic excellence made by Jiaqi and Dr. Haynes as a faculty-student team. Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Haynes to present research at EpiBio 2017

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Dr. Haynes has been invited to present her research at the International Conference on Epigenetics and Bioengineering (EpiBio 2017) in Miami, FL. The conference is presented by the Society of Biological Engineering (SBE). EpiBio 2017 is a forum for engineers and scientists who are applying  bioengineering to the area of epigenetics and chromatin. Dr. Haynes will present a talk entitled “Synthetic Readers and Writers of Chromatin to Advance Cell Engineering” on Wednesday, December 13.

Research – bioRxiv Pre-print – Enhancing Cas9 Activity in Heterochromatin

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Enhancing Cas9 Activity in Heterochromatin
Daer R, Barrett C, Haynes KA. (2017) bioRxiv. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/12/04/228601

CRISPR is a powerful and popular tool for editing DNA in living cells. Scientists are becoming more interested in using CRISPR to correct mistakes in DNA that lead to diseases, to artificially generate mutations to research the origins of diseases, and for other important applications. However, CRISPR originated in bacteria and has probably not evolved to function very well in genomes that are packed in configurations (open and closed chromatin) as complex as those found in human cells. In a recent report (Daer et al. 2017), we demonstrated that CRISPR activity was inhibited at a DNA sequence that became artificially condensed into closed chromatin. Our new study shows that targeted re-opening of closed chromatin leads to enhanced CRISPR activity in the same region. The epigenetic drug we tested (UNC1999) was not sufficient to generate a transcriptionally active or CRISPR-accessible state. In contrast, strong direct activation with a DNA-binding p65 protein did enhance CRISPR accessibility. Importantly, we learned that a recovery period (following treatment with p65) is needed to generate the CRISPR-accessible state.

Congratulations to the ASU 2017 iGEM Team

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The 2017 ASU International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition (iGEM) team brought home a Gold medal and two nominations for competitive prizes. The team presented their project “EVR QST: Engineering Variable Regulators for a Quorum Sensing Toolbox” to a panel of judges (academic, policy, and industry professionals) and an international audience. The 2017 iGEM Giant Jamboree took place in Boston, MA at the Hynes Convention Center on November 9 – 13, 2017. Read the rest of this entry »