CSHL Synthetic Bio 1.0 – Day 5, End of Week 1

Written by: Karmella Haynes

This morning we heard from Dan Gibson, the developer of the widely popular synthetic gene assembly technique “Gibson Assembly,” and a key member of the team that made the first functional, fully synthetic genome at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI). If you ever meet Dan in person, you’ll see that he is a pensive, resourceful, and humble scientist. His CSHL presentation of the “first synthetic cell” project as an arduous journey fraught with pitfalls was in stark (and refreshing) contrast with the fanfare produced by the media.

This afternoon, Andy Ellington from UT Austin presented his home-crafted robotized gene synthesis system. It may not be at the technological scale of Integrated DNA Technologies or the JCVI, but as Andy put it “I like it because it’s mine”. He named one of his robots Audry II.


His current work is directed evolution/ massive selection of new proteins in a hydrophobic emulsion…or evolution of proteins in dark goo. The scheme is very clever. The molecular function of some protein of interest is coupled to the expression of Taq polymerase. Both the POI and Taq are encoded on the same plasmid, thus mutants with improved function lead to more Taq making more copies of the plasmid when primers are present.

Andy’s final thoughts on synthetic biology included “when genes are outlawed, only outlaws will have genes.”

Our official course photo shoot is next on the schedule, followed by a picnic at 6pm.


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